Disabled football supporters have reacted with outrage at an award to Chelsea for “advanced” equality standards despite the club’s ongoing failure to meet minimum recommended numbers for wheelchair users at Stamford Bridge.
According to two recent surveys of disabled access, Stamford Bridge provides around half of the recommended space for wheelchair users in a stadium of its size. Seventeen other Premier League clubs also fail to meet guidelines, a situation causing increasing anger and astonishment among campaigners.
Chelsea have the 14th-best record of Premier League clubs for disabled spaces but were awarded on Monday by Kick it Out the ‘Advanced Equality Standard’. Particular mention was made of their ‘Building Bridges’ campaign within schools and communities, as well as their work on tackling racism. The charity Level Playing Field is seeking urgent talks with Kick it Out to relay its “deep disappointment” and concerns.
“When considering an advanced award in any walk of life, surely it is not unreasonable to expect the recipient to meet best practice standards,” Joyce Cook, the chair of Level Playing Field, said. Cook added an equality award needed to reflect all aspects of the Equality Act to be credible. Chelsea say the design of Stamford Bridge had prevented the club increasing access for disabled fans. Clubs that do meet or get close to the guidelines are generally those with newer stadiums. Level Playing Field says virtually any stadium or building can be modified with sufficient expertise, will and resource.
“We were delighted to see our work recognised and the award serves as inspiration to continue these important projects across a wide range of equality issues,” a Chelsea spokesman said. “We are aware of the limited facilities for disabled fans at Stamford Bridge. Like many clubs with older grounds we are hampered by the age and layout of the stadium. We keep our disabled facilities at Stamford Bridge under continual review to see what improvements can be made and it is an issue we take extremely seriously.”