Premier League: Disabled charity hopes clubs carry out promises

Archive: Changes promised for disabled fans

The Premier League must ensure clubs carry out their promise of improving access for disabled fans, says a disabled supporters' charity.

On Monday, Premier League clubs said they would comply with the Accessible Stadia Guideexternal-link by August 2017 after criticism in a government report.external-link

The guide was first published in 2003.

Joyce Cook, chair of Level Playing Field,external-link said it has been "a very long time coming" and "the proof will be in the pudding".

Level Playing Field estimates it will cost Premier League clubs approximately £25m to make the improvements.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Cook said her charity was lobbying the Premier League to provide funding to help clubs in the Football League meet standards for disabled access, which Level Playing Field estimates will cost £55m.

The Football League say they will debate disability access at an all-clubs meeting on Thursday.

But they have ruled out spending their own money on extra facilities, saying there is not the same demand from disabled fans as there is in the Premier League.

They say they will instead focus on "improving the matchday experience" for those disabled supporters that do attend.

Joyce Cook's experience at football matches
"Sitting with the home fans as an away fan can be horrid. There have been occasions where other fans abuse disabled supporters.
"You can also travel half the distance of the country and get to stare at someone's back for 90 minutes."

The Accessible Stadia Guide sets out minimum standards all new grounds have to meet in terms of the provision, location and quality of facilities for disabled fans.

The Premier League, the Football Association and the National Association of Disabled Supporters - which is now known as Level Playing Field - all contributed to it.

In addition to the government's report, a 2014 BBC investigation found 17 of England's top-flight clubs failed to provide enough wheelchair spaces.

In order to comply with the guidelines, 15 of the current 20 clubs would have to increase their capacity for disabled fans.

Cook said: "The promises made will ensure many more disabled fans can finally enjoy a fair and equal experience. For disabled football fans this is huge news.

"We will be requesting a meeting with the Premier League over the coming few days."

During a House of Lords debate on Tuesday, it was announced that the government will also meet with the Premier League in early November to monitor their progress.

Conservative peer Baroness Neville-Rolfe said she expects the Football League clubs to "take inspiration from the Premier League announcement".

The Premier League says it is a third of the way through its own assessment, but has committed to ensuring the appropriate number of wheelchair bays are located in away sections.

The clubs' plan of action includes looking at ticketing policies, steward training and the information available on their websites.

Fans' views
Arsenal fan Anthony Joy, 38, from North London: "The main thing for me is that it should now mean I can sit with my mates and watch the match and that clubs will introduce integrated seating. But I'm cautious. There have been too many false dawns. Now it's time for the Premier League to put their money where their mouth is."
Manchester United fan Vicky Besley, 30, from Bromsgrove: "I'm cautious about being optimistic. I can't see how they're going to do it. But if they do it would make my football experience so much better. I'd be elated if it means I can get tickets at Old Trafford. It would feel like a treat."
Everton fan Amy Wilson, from Liverpool: "The announcement came as a surprise but a good one. It really is about time disabled fans had a fair and inclusive match experience so we can go to the match to support just like our friends and family do. We are supporters too and should be treated as such."
Martin Emery, who writes a blog called United Discriminate:external-link "We have to remember that the Lord Taylor report issued [in 1990] after Hillsborough had guidelines for disabled fans in it. That was updated in 2003 and today we still have these issues in the richest league in the world."