Disabled supporters report accessibility shortcomings of world’s richest league.
An Accessibility League Table of Premiership football clubs, published today by national charity Revitalise, has found that most clubs are failing disabled supporters.
The research is good news for Arsenal, Southampton and newcomers AFC Bournemouth, who top Revitalise’s ‘Footie4All’ league table – published today in the form of a colourful infographic – with Manchester City, Swansea, Leicester and Newcastle close behind.
But the study also found that only three clubs in the world’s richest football league have the recommended number of spaces for wheelchair users, according to guidelines that have been in existence for over 10 years. Only AFC Bournemouth, Swansea City and Arsenal were found to be 100% compliant with the UEFA’s recommendation for wheelchair spaces, first published in the Accessible Stadia guidelines in 2003.
The Revitalise research is bad news for Premiership heavyweights Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool – three of the world’s top 10 richest clubs – who find themselves languishing in the bottom half of the charity’s table.
At the very bottom, Premier League newcomers Watford prop up the table and are locked in a relegation dogfight with Tottenham Hotspur and Everton.
Revitalise also surveyed wheelchair-using football supporters from each of the Premiership clubs and the football lovers among the charity’s own disabled guests, who painted a picture of poor match day experiences, feelings of exclusion and a lack of accessibility information from the world’s richest league.
The survey found that, for 8 out of 10 (79%) wheelchair supporters, feeling socially included was ‘very important’ when attending a match, while the availability of access info online was ‘very important’ to 9 out of 10 (87%) wheelchair fans.
Disabled fans cited badly located (38%) and insufficient (34%) wheelchair spaces as major issues at matches, while the chance to be with friends (55%) and a better view of the action (57%) were the top two improvements they would like clubs to make.
Revitalise is calling for football clubs to up their game and meet their obligation to disabled supporters under the Equality Act by installing more and better facilities for disabled fans, as well as providing better quality access info online.
Revitalise Chief Executive Chris Simmonds commented:
“In just 48 hours the Premiership kicks off for another season, but our study shows that for disabled people, going to the big match might not be the joyful experience they had hoped for and it’s down to the clubs to put this right.
“We’re talking about the world’s richest football league here, yet all but three have been unable to comply with simple guidelines that were laid down over 10 years ago! There can be no excuse for this.
“Bournemouth, a newcomer to the top flight, with a stadium that’s 105 years old and a turnover one fifteenth of the Premiership average, has managed to fit twice the recommended number of wheelchair spaces into its tiny stadium – and in the process has put many much bigger, richer and better resourced clubs to shame.
“And if any more perspective were needed, we also found out that the Championship is performing just as well as the Premiership when it come to accessibility but on a seventh of the turnover.
“Disabled supporters have an absolute right to expect the same enjoyable, socially inclusive experience as every other fan and football clubs have a moral and legal obligation to provide this.
“The Premiership clubs need to get on the ball. Your disabled supporters need more and better wheelchair spaces, better views, better info online and – just as important – the chance to spend time with their friends. We don’t think that’s too much to ask.”
The Revitalise study was featured on BBC Radio Merseyside which featured Chair of Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association, Keith Graham. Listen in from 1 hr 8 mins.