Hundreds of thousands of people in England and the rest of the UK enjoy spending their weekends travelling to stadia around the country to support their favourite football team. Following a favoured club around the country is hard enough for most supporters, but it can be even harder for football fans that have a disability.
Disabled fans face a range of different environmental and social barriers when it comes to watching live sports in football stadia. However, government organisations and national charities have been working hard to break down the barriers that prevent disabled people from enjoying stadium-based sports.
All English Premier League clubs are expected to meet minimum standards to enable disabled supporters to have the same opportunities as those who do not have additional access requirements.
As part of their training, staff at football clubs should understand disabled access requirements. Every customer facing staff member should undergo Disability Equality Training as part of their induction. Although clubs should not expect every staff member to know all of the details about disabled access, staff members should know where to direct disabled access enquiries and how to get support if issues do arise.
All Premier League clubs are expected to have a Disability Liaison Officer who will work with the club to provide the best possible level of service to customers, in line with disability discrimination laws.
Assistants and Carers
Football clubs should acknowledge that some disabled fans require the services of a personal assistant or carer to enable them to attend live events. Clubs should also have provisions in place to allow carers or personal assistants to be admitted to matches without charge. Clubs are permitted to ask for evidence from the disabled person to show that they require the assistance of a personal assistant or carer.
Clubs must not state that they require a disabled person to be accompanied by a personal assistant or carer; however they are permitted to encourage a personal assistant to attend to help the supporter with any personal care needs.
If the supporter wishes to bring a child with them to act as a personal assistant, the child must be capable of providing the same level of support that an adult carer would be able to provide.
Premier League clubs are recommended to deal with their own ticketing policies for disabled people, rather than delegating the responsibility to a supporters’ association and clubs should provide clear information to disabled supporters about how to obtain tickets for matches. Although this information does not have to be codified, producing a written document setting out the policies of the club will help the club to provide a consistent level of service to supporters.
Disabled supporters should be given the same access to promotional ticket prices and all types of season tickets that are offered to other fans. A club’s ticketing authority is entitled to seek reasonable evidence from disabled supporters to show any additional access requirements which that person has. If the supporter were to require additional tickets for a personal assistant or carer, they may also be requested to provide evidence to show the necessity and role of the carer.
Wherever possible, adaptations should be provided to allow disabled supporters to have the same access to ticketing facilities that are afforded to non-disabled supporters. This can include changes like a lowered ticketing counter for wheelchair users or the use of a hearing loop system for those with hearing impairments.
Stadium access adjustments for disabled supporters should begin before the supporter arrives at the stadium.
Provisions should be made to offer suitable parking spaces to disabled supporters who would not be able to use traditional match day parking. If the club is not able to provide on-site parking options, they should make sure that reasonable provisions are made to allow disabled supporters to get from off-site parking areas to the stadium.
It is recommended that the club designates at least 5% of its parking capacity to disabled supporters. If it is not possible to provide enough disabled parking spaces to all of those who need them, the available spaces should be allocated in a fair and transparent manner. A club is not required to provide any form of disabled transport to away games, unless they specifically provide transport to non-disabled supporters.
Clubs should take reasonable steps to ensure that disabled supporters are able to be fully involved in all match day events. Changes should be made to the layout of the stadium to allow easy wheelchair access to facilities, including toilet, shop and food services. Any new building work which is conducted at the stadium should be done with consideration for the Disability Discrimination Act.
A clear evacuation process should be set out to ensure that disabled supporters can exit the building easily and safely in the event of an emergency.
Features of the stadium should be clearly sign-posted so that supporters can take advantage of all of the features that are available to them.
Supporters who require a wheelchair may be seated in a separate area of the stadium if this is the safest and most accessible place. Some seating for non-disabled people may be included in this area to accommodate for carers and personal assistants.
Access for disabled people continues to improve across the Premier League; however it is important that supporters continue to fight for fair access to sports. These campaigns strive to offer equality to disabled fans.