English Premier League football clubs have been urged to improve disabled facilities at stadia in a report published today (Monday) by the UK’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
The Committee did applaud the efforts of many football, rugby league, rugby union and cricket clubs for their efforts in catering for disabled fans, but said it was “completely unacceptable” that some Premier League clubs have “failed to carry out even basic adaptations” in the past 20 years.
The report states that it is “very clear that sports clubs, notably many of those with very considerable income and resources, have not done anywhere near enough for sports fans with disabilities in recent years, despite the increase in income many of those clubs have enjoyed.”
The report cited West Ham, which last summer moved to the London Stadium, as an example, pointing to the fact that some former wheelchair spaces have been allocated a dual use for wheelchair users or for hospitality facilities.
The Committee said it “expects the needs of disabled fans to receive priority over the desire to charge a premium for extra hospitality accommodation, and, given the huge public investment in converting the Olympic Stadium into a Premier League football ground, all the partners involved should at the very (least) ensure that West Ham becomes an exemplar regarding disabled access”.
The Premier League has suggested it would consider sanctioning clubs that fail to comply with disability regulations at stadia.
Damian Collins MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “When we see examples of good practice at some clubs that are already providing disabled supporters with a good experience when they attend matches, it is especially disappointing that some of the rich clubs are not doing more. Sports fans with disabilities are not asking for a large number of expensive changes – only to have their needs taken into account in the way sports stadia are designed and operated. It is high time that sports clubs, especially for example those with plenty of resources as in football’s Premier League, changed their mindset. This isn’t really about money, it’s about the will to do it.
“It is in clubs’ own interests to pay more attention to the often very moderate needs of such a large proportion of the UK population. Most clubs do not sell all the tickets for games, and a reputation for being well adapted and welcoming to disabled supporters should enhance their reputations generally.”