Top flight clubs failing to provide proper access for disabled fans
Speaking during an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live on Sunday, Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore answered questions about why so many top-flight clubs are falling to provide proper access for disabled fans.
Scudamore told 5 Live presenter Gary Richardson:
“I’m not going to hide the fact that it’s disappointing. The truth is, we are already working with EHRC and have been for some time, looking at the actual detail and the facts on this. Of course, we are not going to hide behind the legislation either, the legislation governs new stadia and therefore obviously there are guidelines. We cannot continue to keep falling short of those guidelines and therefore there is work in play”.
“There is a big piece of work, we are actually going round all the grounds establishing exactly what the gap is and what the realistic plans are to get things up to the standard. I am not going to hide behind the fact that we do need to do the work and we do need to do it as quickly as we can to bring ourselves up to the standard”.
An investigation carried out by the Daily Telegraph found that only three of the twenty clubs playing in the 2014-15 Premier League season meet the minimum number of wheelchair user spaces that they are required to provide. The 2003 Accessible Stadia guide recommends that a minimum 0.34 per cent of tickets at larger stadiums should be available to wheelchair users. It is understood that none of the newly-promoted teams for the 2015-16 season meet the minimum number.
When asked whether there was any reason that Premier League clubs shouldn’t have the required number of wheelchair user spaces in place for the start of next season, Scudamore replied:
“It’s practical reasons really. That might not sound the right answer but for some of these stadia that are old, some of these stadia the configurations it’s a very difficult thing to do physically and within stadia especially when the emotiveness of moving season ticket holders who have had their season tickets for ever. You can understand why Tottenham, with a new stadium being built which absolutely will be compliant to actually displace and move people short term to do these things, it may not sound morally right but there are some practical difficulties in doing it immediately but we are going to do this piece of work and we are going to get clubs to move as quickly as they realistically can. We are not going to hide behind the fact that it’s not acceptable”.
In responding to the interview, Level Playing Field Chair, Joyce Cook OBE said:
“We are encouraged by Richard Scudamore’s comments and of course we welcome the progress. But, it is important to remember that football clubs, like all service providers in this country, have had more than a decade to meet their legal obligations (in line with the Equality Act and previous DDA). This legislation required that physical barriers be removed as far back as 2004, to ensure that venues are fit for purpose and fully accessible to disabled people. The law on this matter is very clear and it applies to both new and existing venues including football stadiums.”
“There are many public venues that are old or even listed buildings in the UK and that has not stopped their owners from making the necessary access improvements. For Premier League football clubs, funding is certainly not an issue and fellow fans groups have told us that their (non-disabled) members would not object to being moved to accommodate disabled fans. It is worrying to hear the Premier League seeming to defend some of its clubs. There can be no more excuses. We will continue to push for more rapid progress than we have seen so far – disabled fans have waited long enough – it is quite simply time!”.
And Equality and Human Rights Disability Commissioner, Lord Chris Holmes, said:
“We are disappointed that progress to date has been so slow, and we hope Premier League clubs will now redouble their efforts to make football a truly inclusive experience for all. Premier League clubs have a legal duty under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure reasonable adjustment for disabled fans. It’s outrageous that we can have one of the richest leagues in the word and yet, far too often, when it comes to trying to buy tickets to have a matchday experience, the beautiful game can be an ugly experience if you are a disabled spectator.
“While our preference is always to work with parties to avoid costly legal proceedings, all options remain on the table because disabled fans deserve better.”
To listen to the BBC Radio 5 Live interview, please click here. (Scudamore’s interview starts at approx. 4 minutes and he answers questions about poor access for disabled fans at approx. 14 minutes.)
To read recent stories in the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Observer and the Disability News Service, please see the links below:
Disability News Service – “Equality Watchdog contradicts football’s Premier League over access“
The Sunday Observer – “Premier League clubs under fire for ‘lip service’ to disabled fans”
The Sunday Observer – “Disabled fans short-changed at Premier League grounds despite riches pouring in”