National disability charity Scope have published figures showing how disabled fans feel excluded from live games due to disability discrimination at football grounds.
The research undertaken by Scope shows that 8 in 10 disabled football fans have experienced disability discrimination or faced issues concerning their disability, with 62% of the respondents saying this had prevented them from returning to watch live football again.
The survey also found that 40% of disabled supporters who attend matches have experienced negative attitudes from other fans, with 29% of them having been victims of verbal abuse themselves.
The figures also showed concerns amongst disabled fans in relation to well trained club staff, and a lack of appropriate facilities at stadiums.
In a separate poll of non-disabled fans, 52% of respondents said more should be done to tackle disability discrimination within football.
To highlight the issue of disability discrimination in football, Scope are teaming up with Virgin Media for next Wednesday’s Premier League fixture between Southampton and Manchester United. On the night Saints players will wear Scope branded shirts, and removing the Virgin Media logo to show support for disabled fans.
Scope’s Chief Executive, Mark Atkinson, said: “This new research should serve as a wakeup call to all football clubs and fans. “Football is our national game and has the ability to bring people together. We know that large numbers of fans want everyday equality and that means an inclusive game where discrimination of any kind isn’t tolerated. Disabled fans shouldn’t feel forced out of the stadium. “It’s great to see football teams like Southampton FC highlighting the issue, with the support of Virgin Media who’ve donated their shirt sponsorship to Scope for this match. “The rest of the football industry now needs to work together and kick disability discrimination out of the game.”
Tony Taylor, Level Playing Field Chair, responded to Scope’s findings saying: “These figures highlight very real issues within football that require immediate attention from everyone within the game. For disabled people to still feel unwelcome whilst watching their team play is totally unacceptable on every level.”
“Once again, we make absolutely clear that there is no distinction between disability discrimination and discrimination against other protected characteristics. It has no place within football, or in wider society, and must never be accepted or tolerated.”
“We urge clubs and decision makers within the game to take this issue seriously and ensure that all forms of discrimination are removed from football.”