Premiership should face penalties for lack of access, says Revitalise.

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17th January 2017
wheelchair users at football game

Fines and points deductions will force clubs into line, says Revitalise, backing new Government report.

Responding to today’s publication of the report ‘Accessibility of Sports Stadia’ by the Department of Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) Select Committee, Revitalise is backing the Committee’s call for legislation which will compel Premier League football clubs to become fully accessible

The charity is citing the shock findings of its own research as clear evidence that the world’s richest league is letting down disabled supporters and that decisive action is now needed.

In September 2015 Revitalise welcomed the publication of the Accessible Stadia Report by the DWP and DCMS, and the Premier League’s pledge to become 100% compliant with the Accessible Stadia guidelines by August this year.

However, the charity has been dismayed to discover that, according to the report, some Premiership clubs are already back-pedalling on their pledge.

In 2015 a Revitalise study found that only three Premiership clubs had the recommended number of spaces for wheelchair users, and in 2016 a similar study of the Championship found that only four clubs in that league could say the same.

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 and even feelings of intimidation.

4 out of 10 (40%) disabled supporters reported feeling intimidated at a match, with being seated too close to opposition fans (29%) and receiving abuse from non-disabled fans (19%) cited as the main reasons for this.

The disabled fans also 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.

In the light of this latest report Revitalise is renewing its call for football clubs to up their game and meet their obligations to their disabled supporters or risk harsh sanctions.

Revitalise Chief Executive Chris Simmonds commented:
“In September 2015 Revitalise welcomed the Premiership clubs’ pledge to comply with the Accessible Stadia guidelines by August 2017 and said it was about time.

“Now we are surprised but also frustrated by the apparent lack of progress on the part of the clubs.

“Let’s not forget that the entire football league signed up to the Accessible Stadia guidelines way back in 2003, yet time and time again all but a handful of clubs have ducked their responsibilities to their disabled fans.

“That’s why we agree that legislation is now needed. If clubs won’t do the right thing voluntarily, they should be compelled to do so by the risk of fines or even the docking of points.

“Disabled supporters have an absolute right to expect the same enjoyable, socially inclusive experience as every other fan. They 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.”

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