Disabled facilities at Wrexham AFC have inspired a Parliament bill to improve standards throughout the country.
Wrexham MP Ian Lucas says viewing platforms installed at the Racecourse Ground last summer have encouraged a push for clubs at the top of the game to follow example. The Accessible Grounds Bill is currently going through the Commons, highlighting the issue, and has been sponsored by Mr Lucas. He said: “Basically the origin of this bill is Lord Faulkner of Worcester, who is on the governing body of the National League, which Wrexham play in. “The bill seeks to extend the right of disabled supporters to view football matches. “Lord Faulkner has visited the Racecourse Ground and has seen the viewing platforms at Wrexham which enable disabled fans to get a decent, sheltered view of the game. “It highlights how inadequate provision for disabled fans is, throughout the game, and incredibly there is no obligation on Premier League clubs to provide such facilities.
“The purpose of the bill is to highlight the issue.
“As a result of disabled supporters association pressure, the Premier League have put out a statement that at the start of the 2017-18 season, clubs will be required to have adequate provision.
“Within Wrexham AFC and Glyndwr University (who own the ground), those organisations have done more than most to take this forward.
“I have been asked by Lord Faulkner to look after his bill in the House of Commons.
“It has to go through Parliament, the Lords and the the Commons, becoming law by the end of session in March.”
Steve Gilbert, chairman of Wrexham AFC Disabled Supporters Association, said: “We had a visit from Lord Faulkner and he said we were the model for the rest of the world to follow. It was great to hear and it encourages us to carry on.
“We have made a big wave for a small club. We have got the oldest international ground in the world and we are a conference club owned by the fans. If we can do it, so can other clubs.”
Mr Gilbert added the group and the club were looking for ways to make the Racecourse accessible for people with all kinds of disabilities.
He said: “Wheelchairs and platforms grab the headlines but there is a lot more we need to do because we want everyone with a disability who thinks they can’t come to a match to contact us and let us know so we can see what we can do.
“We are trying to improve things for everyone, not just people in wheelchairs. The club is trying to make the ground dementia friendly and we are trying to get audio descriptive commentary for visually impaired people. In 2013 we ran the UK’s first autism friendly game.
“Since we built the platform, the number of wheelchair users going to matches has doubled. Disabled people are the biggest minority group in the world and if your ground is not full up, why are you not looking at ways to get more people through the gates.
“There are commercial reasons for it as well.”
A Glyndwr University spokesman said: “The university is pleased to hear that a bill to extend the right of disabled supporters to view football matches has been put forward, and proud to have played a part in bringing it to fruition.
“The wheelchair viewing platform was an important part of an overall £350,000 revamp of the Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium, along with an upgrade to the changing rooms, pitch and floodlights.”
Article reproduced from The Leader