A disabled sports fan has hit out at unfit venues that force him to sit away from his friends and family at live matches.
Alan Pockley took part in a UK-wide survey for Muscular Dystrophy UK Trailblazers – a 700-strong network of young disabled people. Ahead of the Paralympics, the charity’s ‘Move the goalposts’ report revealed a worrying picture of disabled fans frustrated and isolated from the sports they love.
Sunderland fan Alan, of South Shields, attended both home and away matches regularly for over a decade before the discomfort of sitting outside forced him to stop.
“It’s just too cold for me now,” he said.
“If there was somewhere you could go to stay warm I’d probably be able to start going again. The only stadium I’ve been to that had somewhere like that was Old Trafford.”
The 31-year-old said the Stadium of Light, and other North East stadiums, were generally good for disabled access but that going to away games was “a real lottery”.
He said: “On occasions I’ve been forced to sit with the opposition fans, which makes me question if it’s even worth going. This has happened at quite a few stadiums, including Anfield and Villa Park.
“At Wigan I could only see three quarters of the pitch.”
Alan added: “Being split up from friends and family is a real issue, as camaraderie is a big part of the day. I have to applaud the clubs that get it right, but for those that don’t, they must know they’re ruining disabled peoples’ love of sport.”
Muscular Dystrophy UK’s report found more than half of disabled fans have had to sit away from family and friends, while some feel in danger by having to sit with opposing fans.
It detailed accounts of disabled fans forced to sit in the rain, with over half having had to sit in an unsheltered seating area.
One in four say that venue access, including parking, is the number one reason for not attending more sporting events.
And the charity is calling for venues to liaise with disability groups to discuss improving the experience of disabled sports fans, to improve accessible toilets and boost the number of disabled parking spaces.
Tanvi Vyas, manager of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “It is disappointing that four years after the big promises of a Paralympic legacy, many disabled people are clearly frustrated, limited and let down by their sporting experience.
“That they feel shut-out from events they love due to venue layout and accessibility is a real disgrace.
“We urge the sports industry to put accessibility at the heart of stadium design and renovation, and to engage with charities like ours so every sports fan, regardless of disability, can follow their passion.”
Reproduced from Newcastle Chronicle