Work on improving accessibility at Manchester United’s Old Trafford home ground is facing a setback as further safety assessments need to be made across the three stands that require work.
Despite this, changes at the Premier League club’s Old Trafford stadium began at the end of last season, with more than 300 new positions in place for disabled supporters. In addition, several new wheelchair user platforms have been installed, along with new amenity seats and the widening of exits.
The introduction of new accessible facilities in the North Stand has caused some concern and will be subject to assessments from both a safety and customer service perspective.
The East Stand, where some disable supporters will make use of a new entrance and share the main concourse with non-disabled supporters for the first time, will undergo an initial assessment. As the largest stand, it has been deemed the most suitable for primary testing in a ‘live’ operational setting while minimising risk.
A third party will carry out the assessments during the course of the 2017-18 season, in a controlled manner, to ensure the safety of the supporters, the club said.
The necessary changes are causing some 2,600 season ticket holders to be displaced from their seats, therefore the club has opted to develop a three-year phased programme of relocating fans.
All new facilities are still expected to be ready for use for the 2020-21 season, as planned prior to the setbacks.
Following the initial assessment results, the club will look to broaden the assessments to include other areas for friendlies and cup games not included in the automatic cup scheme.
United said in a statement: “The Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Premier League have both been made aware, and have been assured of the club’s continued commitment to equality and the fulfilment of our Stadium Accessibility Plans for the start of the 2020-21 season as previously communicated.
“Additionally, season ticket holders who were relocated over the summer, and disabled supporters, have also been notified, and the club thanks them for their understanding and continued loyal support.”
Earlier this year, Premier League clubs came under fire from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for making only “limited progress” on improving access for disabled fans at stadiums.
A report from the EHRC said that 13 of the 20 teams in the English top tier last season were failing to provide the required number of wheelchair spaces, while just seven clubs had larger and fully equipped toilets.
United, along with Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, were amongst the teams named in the report for having not met requirements in certain areas.
Image: Abhijit Tembhekar