Most music venues and festivals across the UK cater for those with disabilities, although according to a disabled charity disabled football fans are often left off-side.
Over the past five years there has been a lack of improved facilities for wheelchair users cheering on their chosen football teams. Just over half of the Premier League clubs meet national guidelines for accessibility which state a certain number of wheelchair spaces must be available in their ground.
Chairperson of the Level Playing Field charity, Joyce Cook has called for an improved service asking each football club to reach their target...or should that be ‘goal’?
She said, "It's hard to get tickets, specifically for away games and especially for wheelchair users. When you get there, the sight lines can be pretty grim and it can be quite a miserable experience. There are a few good examples... but I think some of it is based on trying to manage a poor situation - a complete lack of sufficient seats."
One of the clubs lagging behind is Crystal Palace, a Gunners fan said the away ground pays no attention to supporting disabled fans “in any way, shape or form”. It isn’t just Selhurst Park which fails to provide suitable access; Upton Park, Anfield and Vila Park also provide an inadequate number of wheelchair spaces.
Football Clubs should abide to the rules published in the Accessible Stadia Guide released in 2004, just eight grounds meet the required commitments. The guide states stadiums should provide a number of wheelchair spaces related to its capacity and although it takes into account old stadiums it states “reasonable adjustments” should be made whenever possible. Only twelve clubs reach satisfactory requirements with Swansea being top of the league.
Another penalty football clubs face is how they sell tickets to disabled supporters. There is no standard policy across the league which falls below discrimination laws, many of which are never challenged by the public.
Barrister Catherine Casserley said, “I have to say that the people that I've seen really have come to me at the end of their tether because they really don't want to bring claims against their clubs but they want the same experience as non-disabled fans. Why shouldn't they have that?"
With a percentage of football clubs scoring an own goal, isn’t it about time disabled supporters stand up for themselves and show their home grounds a red card?
The Wheelchair Football League
How does your team score when it comes to accessible seating in their ground?
5. West Brom
7. Manchester City
11. West Ham
16. Manchester United
17. Crystal Palace
18. Aston Villa
For more information visit the Level Playing Field website.
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