Everyone knows Level Playing Field has its roots in football. More than twenty years ago a group of disabled football fans were sat around a kitchen table complaining about how difficult it was for them to watch their teams and get access to the grounds. So, they decided to do something about it and in 1998 the National Association of Disabled Supporters (NADS) was born.
It took a few more years to become established and to be taken seriously by the football authorities but hard work and perseverance paid off.
Skip forward a few more years and NADS changed its name in 2008 to Level Playing Field, became a registered charity in England and Wales and started employing a team of full-time staff with specialist knowledge, skills and experience accommodated in its own office.
In 2018 following a strategic review, Level Playing Field became a limited company with a board of Directors and still maintained its charitable status.
But our vision has never changed; it is a world in which all disabled fans can freely access and enjoy live sporting events.
Our reputation has grown too, and other sports have reached out to us over the years for advice and support including cricket, rugby union, rugby league, tennis, horseracing and more unusually speedway, ice hockey, athletics, motor racing and golf. We value these relationships, and we are pleased to share so much of the good practice we have experienced in football to help make all spectator sports more accessible.
Level Playing Field promotes a positive, inclusive experience for disabled sports fans. We believe that attending and engaging with live sporting events has a positive impact on wellbeing. We work at every level to ensure that disabled funds can freely access and enjoy live sport.
Disability is the largest minority group in any population and yet 50% of disabled people have never attended a live entertainment or sports event.
By promoting a positive, inclusive experience for disabled sports fans Level Playing Field works with clubs and stakeholders to raise awareness and make their facilities and practices accessible to all.
Level Playing Field embraces the ‘social model of disability’ and promotes the removal of barriers that might prevent a disabled spectator from attending or enjoying a live sports event. Those barriers could be environmental or physical barriers in a building, organisational such as inflexible policies, practices, and procedures or attitudinal including stereotyping, discrimination, or prejudice.
Level Playing Field wants to ensure that disabled people have a matchday experience that is equal to that of non-disabled supporters whenever they attend live sport. We do this through our four key pillars of work – for the fans, for the clubs, as a knowledge centre and through our campaigns.
Through these pillars, we provide support and advocacy for disabled fans; access audits and staff training, expert advice, guidance and services to clubs and governing bodies, to design teams to implement accessible facilities at the earliest stage, and campaigning to keep the disability agenda at the top of everyone’s mind.
We have come a long way and this year sees our 17th Weeks of Action campaign when we all come together; clubs, governing bodies, and fans themselves, to celebrate good access and inclusion and to highlight why attending live sport is so important. The irony of the whole situation is that this year everyone, whether they are disabled or not, is currently at home waiting for the “Return of Fans”. So, Level Playing Field is working with clubs and governing bodies to make sure disabled fans are not being overlooked and are included at every stage of the plans.
After all, disabled sports fans are the same as everyone else … they just want to buy a ticket and turn up to watch the game with the minimum of fuss – to have all the information they need, to find their seat, visit the shop, have refreshments, meet up with friends, have access to a suitable toilet and go home, having enjoyed the whole experience.