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Football stadium accessibility: Tips for disabled football fans

Football brings people from all walks of life together but there are accessibility barriers to the unique thrill of attending live fixtures for disabled fans. Ensuring stadia are inclusive and accessible, then, has become a crucial part of any football club's management.

Here, Football Ground Guide outlines what disabled supporters can expect when attending fixtures in England and the United Kingdom.

Football stadium accessibility: the legal framework

The rights of disabled individuals to access public facilities, including sports venues, are protected by various laws and regulations. These accessibility requirements encompass areas such as seating, toilets, parking, and more.

Football clubs have been required to make “reasonable adjustments” to facilities since 2004, and the UK's legal framework means policies cannot discriminate against disabled fans. Furthermore, there's the Accessible Stadia Guide. This provides a set of standards for grounds to meet with regards to the quality of their facilities for disabled fans, but also their location.

How to improve your football club's accessibility

Level Playing Field, founded in 1998, recommends the following steps:

  • Appoint a Disability Liaison Officer who will oversee accessibility issues and provide day-to-day guidance to disabled supporters where necessary, and for other employees who are seeking to improve accessibility in their departments.
  • Ensure accessible toilets are available and clean with emergency assist alarms.
  • Allow assistance and guide dogs and create space for them to accompany their owners.
  • Provide audio description commentary for the blind and partially sighted.
  • Reserve at least 5-10% of car parking space for disabled supporters and create an accessible drop-off and pick-up point.
  • Create a Disabled Supporters Association to gain further insights into potential improvements.
  • Introduce automatic doors.
  • Install handrails.
  • Install ramps instead of stairs where possible, even if temporary ramps if costs are too high.
  • Create a disabled supporters' section within the home support, not separated from their fellow fans.
Level Playing Field charity supports disabled football fans and helps improve football stadium accessibility
Level Playing Field was established in 1998 | Photo by Icon Sport

Tips for disabled football fans attending a match

  • Visit the Level Playing Field website to learn about what disabled access and support is available at the stadium you're attending.
    • If you're particularly anxious about attending, you can contact Level Playing Field directly for more specific advice at [email protected] or 01923 545370.
  • If driving to the game, check to see whether you need to pre-book parking at the stadium.
  • Contact the disabled supporters liaison officer or the releavnt Disabled Supporters Association for more information and to meet with other fans.

The below guide from Level Playing Field will provide all you need to know. It's a fantastic organisation.

What problems do disabled football fans find at stadiums?

A Football Supporters Association report found in July that these are the most common barriers to disabled fans attending live sport:

  1. Physical access at stadiums
  2. Anxiety or lack of confidence
  3. Lack of information
  4. Attitudes of others
  5. Unable to travel to stadium
  6. Difficulty purchasing tickets
  7. “I don’t think stadiums are inclusive for disabled people”
  8. Cost of attending
  9. Stadium policies and rules
  10. Lack of support from club staff

Harry Robinson

A freelance writer and broadcaster, Harry has worked for or featured in/on Manchester United, FourFourTwo, The Independent, The Manchester Mill, UEFA, United We Stand and many others. He's the author of The Men Who Made Manchester United and hosts the Manchester United Weekly Podcast and United Through Time. A Stretford End season ticket holder, Harry travels around Europe to watch his team.

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