Premier League clubs have made limited progress on improving access for disabled fans, campaigners have said. Thirteen out of the 20 sides are failing to provide the required number of wheelchair spaces, says the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). It says only seven clubs have larger, fully equipped toilets, while seven clubs are breaking Premier League rules on providing information to fans. The Premier League said clubs were working hard to improve facilities. Clubs may miss disability deadline Warning over disabled access A BBC report in 2014 found that 17 of 20 clubs did not provide enough wheelchair spaces. Clubs later set a self-imposed deadline to meet standards by August 2017 and the Premier League has pledged to publish a report then to highlight the work carried out. EHRC chair David Isaac said it would launch an investigation into clubs who had failed to meet the minimum requirements and did not publish a clear action plan or timetable for improvement. “The end
Premier League clubs have been accused of failing to act quickly enough to improve facilities for disabled fans and aiming only for minimum legal requirements.
Speaking to MPs on the culture, media and sport committee, Lord Holmes of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission described the clubs’ attitude to disabled access as “defensive” and contrasted it with a more “collaborative, open and honest” approach from other sports.
The EHRC’s disability commissioner said: “There hasn’t been an inclusive culture within the Premier League. Inclusion is not just about bare compliance and satisfying a legal requirement. It can be a powerful message and a beacon to the whole community.”
Lord Holmes, a nine-times Paralympics swimming gold medallist, pointed out that there are “pages and pages” in the league rule book about broadcasting requirements in stadiums but only “one line on disability access”. He also noted the quick fixes clubs made when asked…
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Football’s Premier League will break a pledge that all of its stadiums would be accessible to disabled football fans by next August, despite its clubs spending more than a billion pounds on player transfers this summer. The Premier League, the governing body for the top 20 club sides in England and Wales, delivered a high-profile pledge last year that every one of its members would meet strict access standards by August 2017. But peers heard last week that seven Premier League clubs were set to break the pledge to meet standards laid out in guidance 12 years ago in The Accessible Stadia Guide (ASG). ASG includes guidelines on car parking, accessible information, the minimum number of wheelchair spaces for spectators, location of viewing areas for disabled supporters, and staff training. And today (Thursday), the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) revealed that the Premier League had acknowledged in meetings that many clubs would miss the August deadline. Lord Holmes, EHRC’s
All Premier League clubs have agreed to improve access for disabled supporters by August 2017.
A 2014 BBC investigation found that 17 of England’s top-flight clubs failed to provide enough wheelchair spaces.
At the moment, 15 out of 20 clubs will have to increase capacity to comply with guidelines on accessible stadiums.
Earlier on Monday, a government report had criticised the inadequate facilities and support for disabled fans at Premier League grounds.
Minister for disabled people Justin Tomlinson MP had said “common sense can fix” some issues, but accepted other areas “will need some work”.
“Frankly, some of it is disgraceful,” he told BBC Sport. “There isn’t provision in some grounds, supporters are split up or are put in with the away fans. I find that totally unacceptable.
“We are in the last chance saloon with those football bodies saying: ‘You need to get your house in order.’ We need to get this addressed.”
A Premier League statement said: “We are undertaking our own assessment by surveying every Premier League stadium to determine improvements for disabled access.
“Disability access was discussed at the Premier League shareholders meeting last week with several new proposals agreed.”
Monday’s report – done jointly by the Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Culture, Media and Sport – recommends:
- Planning attendance: Clubs should provide attendance for all groups of disabled people. They should provide information such as stadium distance from local parking and gradient of pavements.
- Buying a ticket: Clubs should allow disabled spectators to buy tickets online. They should provide wheelchair seating that allows disabled spectators to sit with family and friends.
- Travelling to and from the venue: Clubs should provide up to date transport information.
- Overall experience: Match day and club stewards should be given disability awareness training, while abusive behaviour towards disabled spectators should not be tolerated.
- Aids and adaptations: Clubs should increase the number of wheelchair user places for stadiums with more than 10,000 seats.
In August, a survey carried out by charity Revitalise before the start of the new Premier League season suggested that many clubs are continuing to fail disabled fans.
It followed the second reading of the Accessible Sports Grounds Bill in the House of Lords in July, where Lord Holmes of Richmond – Britain’s most successful Paralympic swimmer – called on Premier League sponsors and broadcasters to pull out of football unless progress was made in providing facilities for disabled fans.
In June, top-flight clubs were threatened with legal action after the Equality and Human Rights Commission said it had received a number of complaints, including about Manchester United removing walking aids from away fans.
At the time United said it was “actively working” with its own disabled supporters association and the Premier League to “assess areas for potential improvement”.
Online Accessibility Information
DisabledGo provides online accessibility information for a number of Premier League clubs, so that disabled supporters can find the in-depth information they need to know before attending a match which will reduce the stress, uncertainty and worry of attending the game.
Here is the list of clubs we currently have access guides for:
Most Premier League football clubs have inaccessible websites and fail to provide audio-described commentary for blind and partially-sighted supporters, according to a new survey by a user-led charity.
The survey of the 20 Premier League clubs found only four of them provided in-house commentary by experts trained in audio-description.
It is just the latest evidence of discrimination at football grounds, particularly those belonging to Premier League clubs that have benefited from millions of pounds in television money.
Two months ago, Disability News Service (DNS) revealed that the equality watchdog was to write to Manchester United and the Premier League following concerns passed on by DNS that disabled fans had had their mobility aids confiscated by stewards.
The new survey by Level Playing Field (LPF), the user-led organisation that works to improve access to sporting venues, found that two clubs – Liverpool and Southampton – had refused admission to fans with guide dogs, while only one – Arsenal – provided a toilet area for assistance dogs.
Three clubs – Bournemouth, Liverpool and Chelsea – provide audio-description that has a 30-second time delay, so blind and partially-sighted fans can only hear the action being described half-a-minute after it has happened and the crowd has already reacted.
Another 13 clubs only provide links to local or hospital radio or television commentaries.
And at three clubs* – Crystal Palace, Manchester United and Southampton – away fans have to sit with home supporters if they want to listen to the commentary.
The survey found that most clubs’ websites were inaccessible to blind and partially-sighted fans, while Arsenal was the only club that offered a full match programme in an audio format, but even that was not available until after matches had taken place.
Arsenal fan Wayne Busbridge said some of his worst experiences had been at Manchester United (pictured), because he was forced to sit with home fans to listen to the match commentary.
He said: “It’s not pleasant, you can’t celebrate. I have got spat on and been verbally abused, at United and at Tottenham. But when you report it, they don’t do anything.”
He has also visited grounds with delayed audio-described commentary, which has meant hearing the crowd celebrating a goal before he can hear the relevant commentary, and then trying to listen to the description of the goal as it is drowned out by the noise of cheering fans.
He is also critical of clubs’ websites.
He said: “I don’t know how clubs get away without producing an accessible website. The law is quite clear: I should be able to do what everyone else does, and if I can’t there should be a reasonable adjustment.”
Some Premier League clubs are friendlier than others for away fans, he said. “Stoke couldn’t have helped more. One of their groundsmen drove me back to the train station in his car.”
But he said: “With all the money available to football clubs, it is basically time they pulled their fingers out of their backsides.
“When it suits the Premier League, they pretend they don’t have any influence at all. They should be ashamed of themselves.
“They should be saying, ‘We are the Premier League, with all this money, and we should be getting this right.’ They should set a minimum standard and make the clubs do it.”
Leigh Hutchings, a Watford season-ticket-holder and a Manchester City member, said that buying a ticket for an away match as a blind supporter was so time-consuming that it often “turned into a nightmare”.
He said his best experiences as an away fan had been at Arsenal, the Championship side Ipswich Town, and newly-promoted Premier League side Norwich City, whereas the worst had been a match at Wembley, the national football stadium.
He said: “Premier League clubs have the money, they have no excuse at all. It’s just apathy. We don’t want sympathy, we just want somebody to understand the problems.”
A Premier League spokesman said: “The Premier League is working with clubs to identify scope for improvement of disabled supporter access in their grounds.
“This includes digital services and other facilities for blind and partially-sighted fans.
“We are keen to ensure that all fans have the best possible experience at the match and will continue to work with clubs to develop best practice in this area.”
A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokeswoman said the government took the problems faced by disabled fans “extremely seriously” and was working with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and sporting bodies to “address accessibility and improve the match day experience” for disabled fans.
She said: “It’s clear more work needs to be done in this area. A disability should not be a barrier to attending sporting events.
“We’ve sought views of fans with disabilities and will shortly be publishing these findings.”
*Contrary to the survey results originally reported by DNS, away fans at Spurs do not have to sit with home fans to listen to commentaries, which are audio-described by two commentators trained by the RNIB Soccer Sight programme
Picture: Old Trafford by Wikistadiums.org is licensed under https://creativecommons.org/
Disabled fans being forgotten by football – new analysis shows league table of which premier league clubs are failing fans
As the new Premier League season kicks off, new figures show that despite previous controversy still only 3 out of 20 Premier league clubs are providing enough wheelchair spaces in their grounds.
Top clubs that are not meeting the minimum number of wheelchair spaces required in their stadiums include Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.
Over a year ago, the Government said they would act and that this situation was ‘woefully inadequate’, but as the new season is about to kick off nothing has changed. Analysis also reveals that disabled fans at 55 of the 92 football league clubs have no choice but to sit with home fans as away supporters, and many have stopped travelling to away games because of this unacceptable situation.
Only 14 of the 92 football league clubs in England and Wales meet football’s minimum numbers for wheelchair spaces. Of these, 40% of Premier League clubs meet less than half of the minimum disabled seat requirements.
New analysis from the Office of Chris Bryant MP has also revealed the cost of upgrading the stadiums to the minimum standard compared to the club’s transfer spending this summer; Arsenal would need to spend just 1.4% of their £10m 2015 summer transfer spending, Chelsea 4.4% of their £34.1m, Liverpool 2.1% of their £77.5m, Manchester United 2.7% of their £83.1m and Manchester City just 0.53% of their £71m.
Football’s failure of disabled fans goes beyond those in need of a wheelchair; 2 clubs have refused admission of guide dogs (Liverpool and Southampton) and 3 clubs refuse to allow assistance or guide dogs in the Away fans section (Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United).
Labour is calling for the government to insist improvements are made and to force the clubs, the Premier League and the F.A. to sit down and work together to better serve disabled fans.
The 2015-16 season league table of Premier League teams provision of minimum number of wheelchair spaces
|Club||Wheelchair spaces provided as a percentage of Accessible Stadia Guide recommendations||Cost of upgrading ground to minimum requirement||Money spent on transfer fees this window (correct at 4/8 – 14h00)||% of cost of upgrading ground compared to money spent to transfer fees this summer|
Chris Bryant MP Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said:
“With the money pouring into Premier League football it just isn’t right that disabled football fans are being forgotten by the clubs they support. Everyone should be able to go and watch a game if they want to, but even as the new season starts Premier League clubs still aren’t doing enough to be inclusive and accessible for all.
“The government said they would act a year ago but as the new season kicks off there’s no evidence they’ve done anything to force the clubs, the Premier League and the F.A. to sit down and insist improvements are made.”
“We need an end on the unfair and complex schemes for disabled fans to get tickets for matches, the lack of audio provision in stadia and the restrictions on guide dogs. It isn’t right that clubs are failing their disabled fans and we need to see real action and improvements this season.”
Football’s Premier League has been criticised by disabled fans and the equality watchdog after defending clubs that have failed to provide enough wheelchair-accessible spaces in their grounds.
Surveys have found that most Premier League grounds are falling far short of the recommended level of wheelchair-accessible spaces, with some of the richest clubs – including Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool – among the worst-performers.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission hinted this week that legal action against Premier League clubs was a possibility if they failed to act.
The commission spoke out after Richard Scudamore, chief executive of the Premier League, told the BBC that there were “practical reasons” why some clubs could not provide more spaces for wheelchair-users.
He said it was a “very difficult thing to do physically” in some stadia, while there were challenges with the “emotiveness of moving season ticket holders who have had their season tickets for ever”, while for clubs like Tottenham, which is building a new stadium, there were “practical difficulties in doing it immediately”.
He also wrongly suggested that the Equality Act – which outlaws discrimination against disabled people and other groups – only applies to new sports stadia.
Scudamore admitted that progress on providing more wheelchair spaces was “disappointing” and that clubs “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”.
He also claimed that the Premier League was “working with EHRC [the Equality and Human Rights Commission] and have been for some time, looking at the actual detail and the facts on this”.
But when Disability News Service approached EHRC, Lord [Chris] Holmes, its disability commissioner, said the watchdog was “very disappointed” with the progress made by the Premier League.
He said: “We have had discussions with the Premier League, but we are very disappointed that progress to date has been slow.
“We hope Premier League clubs will now redouble their efforts to make football a truly inclusive experience for all.”
He said that clubs had a legal duty under the Equality Act to ensure “reasonable adjustment for disabled fans”.
He added: “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 match day 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.”
In February, Lord Holmes said that Premier League football clubs would be guilty of a “scandalous” failure if they did not use some of a multi-billion pound TV rights windfall to improve access at their grounds.
Joyce Cook, chair of the user-led Level Playing Field (LPF), which represents disabled sports fans, said it was “worrying to hear the Premier League seeming to defend some of its clubs”, although she said LPF was “encouraged” by some of Scudamore’s comments, and welcomed any progress that had been made.
Cook said it was vital to stress that the Equality Act did not just apply to new stadia, but to older grounds as well.
Only last week, LPF criticised the equality organisation Kick It Out for awarding its Advanced Equality Standard to Chelsea Football Club, even though it only has 127 spaces for wheelchair-users out of a capacity of about 42,000, far below the recommended level of 214 wheelchair-accessible spaces.
Cook said: “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 the previous Disability Discrimination Act).
“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.
“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!”
Meanwhile, the prospect of new legislation forcing clubs to meet existing guidance on wheelchair spaces moved a step closer this week, when the Labour peer Lord Faulkner, an LPF vice-president, who is putting forward an accessible sports grounds bill, came fourth in a ballot to decide which peers will be given priority in introducing their private members’ bills in the current session of parliament.
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com