Accessibility of Sports Stadia Contents

Introduction

1.There are 11.9 million disabled people in the UK, 19% of the population; 6.5 million have a mobility impairment, 4.5 million have problems with stamina/breathing/fatigue, 2.1 million a mental health problem, 1.9 million a memory impairment, 1.7 million a hearing impairment, 1.5 million a visual impairment, and 1.5 million learning difficulties.1

2.The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and its successor the Equality Act 2010 require those providing services to the public, such as a sports stadium, to make a ‘reasonable adjustment’ so that people with disabilities are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to people without disabilities. Service providers are expected to anticipate the requirements of disabled customers and the adjustments that may have to be made for them. However, they are required to make only the adjustments that are reasonable in the circumstances, taking into account issues such as the practicability and cost of making the adjustment and the resources available to the organisation.2 Where it is considered that service providers have not made a reasonable adjustment by providing sufficient facilities, a disabled person may take a civil action against the provider at the County Court (Sheriff’s Court in Scotland).3

3.Because the reasonable adjustment duty has existed since 1995, a sports ground built or substantially redeveloped since then would be “under the greatest obligation”4 to make an adjustment, as the owners and operators of the ground should have anticipated that a proportion of spectators, whether home or visiting fans, would be disabled. Older sports grounds are not exempt: disabled spectators are entitled to ask clubs to make reasonable adjustments.

4.In March 2014, the BBC published an article on its website about the scarcity of wheelchair user spaces at Premiership football grounds.5 In July 2014, the Minister for Sport and the Minister for Disabled People agreed to undertake a joint survey of facilities at sports grounds, with the aim of achieving

“a better understanding of the barriers that disabled people face when attending spectator sports events, ensuring that spectator sports clubs and venues have relevant information that sets out their responsibilities to make their grounds inclusive and accessible and to make sure that sports governing bodies raise the profile of access and inclusion in their sports venues.”6

5.Accordingly, the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) and Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) conducted a small survey of disabled people and a complementary one of spectator sports clubs. In all, 945 disabled people responded to the survey, as did 88 of the 223 sports clubs that received the second survey. The ODI and DCMS agreed to limit themselves to sending surveys to football, rugby union and rugby league and county cricket clubs as these are the main spectator sports in Great Britain.

6.We discuss the survey’s detailed findings below, but overall the results showed a shocking lack of provision for supporters with disabilities of all kinds, including in some cases a failure even to train staff in basic disability awareness.

7.On 14 September 2015, on the day of publication of the survey findings, a report on the BBC news website7 stated that all Premier League clubs had agreed to improve access for disabled supporters by August 2017. At that time, 15 clubs would have had to increase capacity for people with mobility difficulties to comply with the guidelines.

8.In May 2016, conscious that nearly half the time allotted for improvements to Premier League stadia had passed, we decided to hold an inquiry into the accessibility of sports stadia. We noted:

Despite years of campaigning, many sports fans with disabilities find facilities at sports stadia inadequate or inappropriate for them, even when the grounds have been modernised. These failures extend to Premier League clubs. Detailed best practice guidance exists at both national and European level, but some clubs seem content to do the minimum legally required, without considering whether access is really adequate.8

It is very clear that sports clubs, notably many of those with very considerable income and resources, have not given priority to sports fans with disabilities in recent years, despite the increase in income many of those clubs have received.

9.We took oral evidence from Joyce Cooke OBE, Chair, and Ruth Hopkins, General Manager, of Level Playing Field, an organisation representing (primarily football) fans with disabilities; from Bill Bush, Executive Director of the Premier League; Steve Gilbert, a member of Wrexham Disabled Supporters Association; Lord Holmes of Richmond MBE, Disability Commissioner, Equalities and Human Rights Commission; and from Justin Tomlinson MP, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Disabled People, Department for Work and Pensions, and Nick Pontefract, the Head of Sports, DCMS. We also took advantage of the attendance of Mr Greg Clarke, Chairman of The FA, and Tracey Crouch MP, the Minister for Sport, on other occasions to ask them a few questions about accessibility. We received written evidence from 15 organisations and individuals, some of whom asked for their contributions to be treated confidentially because they feared repercussions from the clubs of which they were critical and from fellow supporters.9 We are very grateful to all who gave evidence to us.


1 Family Resources Survey 2013/14 In addition, 3.4 million have a dexterity impairment, 0.8 million social or behavioural difficulties and 1.8 million ‘Other’. A number of people have more than one impairment, so the numbers do not add up to 11.9 million.

2 S21 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995

3 S25 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995

4 DWP and DCMS Inclusive and Accessible Stadia Report. P6

5 http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/26662957 At that time, only Swansea, Southampton and Cardiff provided the required number of wheelchair spaces. Eight of the 20 Premier League clubs provided less than half the number required.

6 Inclusive and Accessible Stadia Report, p7

9 Oral and written evidence (with the exception of the confidential memoranda) are published on the Committee’s website at http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/culture-media-and-sport-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/sports-stadia-accessibility-16-17/publications. Oral evidence is referred to in this Report by question number (‘Q x’).




13 January 2017