Spanish LaLiga football club Real Betis hosted what it claimed was the world’s most inclusive match on Saturday as 1,740 people with disabilities attended its 2-1 win against Real Valladolid.
Betis organised the event with the World Football Summit and Lisbon-based non-profit Integrated Dreams, which works for the inclusion of disabled people in the sports industry.
Saturday’s match saw players warm up wearing bibs with the ColorADD code, which aids people with colourblindness. Children with disabilities also served as mascots, while Betis’ shirt numbers were written in braille and the pre-match team anthem was communicated in sign language on the scoreboards.
The previous record number of fans with disabilities attending a domestic top-flight match was 1,074. Betis, which has around 1,300 members with disabilities, announced plans to host the world’s most inclusive match back in September.
In an interview with the World Football Summit ahead of the match, Betis chief executive Ramón Alarcón said: “We believe that football is a tool with an unmatched power of social, emotional, and economic impact, so we have to take advantage of it and make initiatives like these that promote inclusion and equality and become an example to follow for the millions of followers that our sport has.
“Clubs should be rivals on the field of play, but when the referee blows the final whistle, we must unite and face the challenges facing society together.”
Alarcón added: “We have been working to improve the experience of fans with functional diversity for six years, since the disability department was created at the club, making us one of the only teams in LaLiga to have this specialised department.
“Since that time, we have been improving access to the Benito Villamarín Stadium and incorporating services such as the sensory kit for people with autism, the ‘We take you to your seat’ project for people with mobility or orientation problems, and the creation of a specific volunteer corps that help people with disabilities, among other issues.
“This season, we are incorporating the audio-description service so that visually impaired people can follow the matches in detail. This service is being made possible thanks to the audio description of the sports events degree that Real Betis has promoted at a university in Seville.”