Level Playing Field acknowledges the release of the independent fan-led review of football governance, conducted by Tracey Crouch MP, which we believe to be a significant piece of work for which we congratulate all those involved.
We are encouraged by this examination of the English football system and agree with the need for greater fan engagement and involvement in the game and in particular the role of an independent regulator. We are extremely disappointed, but sadly not surprised, at the lack of reference to disabled fans and the importance of disabled supporters’ voices in the governance of our national sport.
Despite the review being 162 pages of observations and recommendations, actions regarding disability are disappointingly thin.
Disabled people are the largest minority group in the UK (14 million people) but are often an afterthought or low priority in the world of football (and sport in general); we fear that this has proven to be the case once again regarding this review.
We welcome the review’s recommendation for an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion action plan. It is important that these plans are not simply broad sweeping statements but offer specific measurable actions that enhance experience and inclusion with all fans’ voices at the heart of it.
At the very least, we would want plans to include:
- A set of minimum measurable accessibility standards across football clubs
- Board representation for disabled fans/people
- Regular and meaningful structured dialogue with disabled fans
Disabled fans’ voices are imperative in delivering representative governance and understanding the ‘whole picture’ of the experience of a disabled fan. Having a structured communication process and ongoing fan feedback is essential for shaping effective governance and delivering appropriate inclusion.
We strongly recommend that clubs and other sports organisations seek the views and feedback of disabled people as we move into a new phase of fan engagement.
Chair of Level Playing Field Tony Taylor commented: “Tracey Crouch has stated that football must seize a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to reform, and we wholeheartedly agree.
“We engaged with the fan led review panel with a short 30-minute discussion and submitted 14 pages of written evidence.
“We warmly welcome the recommendations outlined in the report; however, we are disappointed that reference to disability inclusion and disabled fans is very thin.
“Once again, we want to emphasise the need for disability representation in footballing governance, to shape and deliver appropriate inclusion.
“We want to commend Tracey Crouch and the panel for their ground-breaking proposals. The review was signposted as a once in a generation opportunity and we trust that this will not go on to emphasise that the only voice that matters is one without a disability”.