Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton and Watford have failed to meet a deadline set by football’s English Premier League to install more wheelchair spaces for disabled fans at their home stadiums.
In 2015, the Premier League set out plans for all of its clubs to provide greater access to games for disabled fans by the 2017-18 season, with all teams at the time committing to the Accessible Stadia Guide (ASG) scheme.
Of the clubs that signed up to the initiative, 16 have remained members of the Premier League, while four have only played in the top tier for a certain amount of time.
Burnley and Newcastle United have been in the Premier League for only one season since the commitment was made, and have an additional year to work on the project, while Brighton & Hove Albion and Huddersfield Town were only promoted in May this year and have just started work on the ASG scheme.
However, the Premier League has sounded out four long-term members of the top flight as not having met the deadline, but at the same time acknowledged that work has been done.
Chelsea has installed a ‘Changing Places’ facility and has various plans to ensure disabled-friendly access at its proposed new stadium. However, with the club uncertain as to how long it will remain at its Stamford Bridge home, this has impacted current progress. The Premier League has requested that the club provide a timetable for plans at its current home by August 2018.
Meanwhile, Everton has added 54 new wheelchair spaces at Goodison Park and also installed a Changing Places facility and added an off-site ‘Sensory Room’. But, like Chelsea, the club is uncertain as to how long it will remain at its home, with plans to relocate in the near future.
Watford has also added more wheelchair bays, introduced a Sensory Room for fans and introduced a Changing Places facility, but still fell short of the targets. However, the club has said it will continue to work towards boosting demand while always providing 25 per cent more bays than demand would require.
Elsewhere, Crystal Palace has added 71 new wheelchair bays, a Sensory Room and a Changing Places facility, but progress has been hampered due to the age of its Selhurst Park home, one of the oldest stadia in the Premier League. The club has informed the Premier League it has longer-term aspirations for developing its home that include further phased improvements for disabled fans.
Premier League executive director, Bill Bush, said: “For clubs to have delivered more than 1,000 new wheelchair bays for fans, and the widespread installation of Changing Places facilities, show how seriously they have taken this commitment.
“The two-year period to complete the work was a deliberately challenging target. Some clubs, particularly those with very old stadiums, have found significant built-environment challenges. For those clubs, money has not been the determining factor but disruption to fans and matchday operations means more time is required.”