Accessibility of Sports Stadia Contents

Conclusions and recommendations


1.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. (Paragraph 8)

The experiences of those with disabilities

2.Disabled spectators are not asking for a large number of expensive changes. They love their sports and wish only for their needs to be taken into account in the way sports stadia are designed and operated. As we go on to describe, a number of clubs are already providing disabled supporters with a good experience when they attend matches, and more could do so. It is high time that sports clubs, particularly those with available finance such as those in football’s Premier League, changed their mindset. It is more a question of will than resources. (Paragraph 22)

The response to date

3.Consideration should be given to devising a confidential reporting regime to enable complaints to be made without adverse consequences for those who complain. (Paragraph 23)

4.We expect the needs of disabled fans to receive priority over the desire to charge a premium for extra hospitality accommodation. (Paragraph 29)

5.There is plenty of guidance available as to what adjustments might be considered reasonable for sports grounds (listed, for example, in Annex A of the Inclusive and Accessible Stadia Report) and many of the obvious ways to ameliorate the problems described above do not require considerable capital or disruption to the stadia and those visiting. Disability awareness training, professional access audits and design appraisals are not expensive and are available from a number of organisations. The start-up cost of a full Audio Descriptive Commentary Service is only £4,000 per club. While the provision of extra wheelchair spaces, adequate lifts and more disabled toilets may require substantial building work, many clubs have made, are making or are planning major building works in which these might be included. (Paragraph 35)

6.We strongly applaud the work done by a number of football clubs in meeting both the letter and the spirit of the Disability Discrimination Act. We accept that other sports have made less progress to date, but we note Level Playing Field’s belief that rugby league, rugby union and county cricket clubs are taking the issue seriously. We encourage these sports to persist. However, we consider it completely unacceptable that a number of Premier League clubs—some of the richest sporting organisations in the UK—have failed to carry out even basic adaptations in over 20 years. Given the huge public investment in converting the Olympic Stadium into a Premier League football ground, we would expect all the partners involved to ensure that West Ham, at the very least, becomes an exemplar regarding disabled access. (Paragraph 40)

7.We concur with Ministers that it is in the sports’ own interests to pay more attention to the—often very moderate—needs of such a large proportion of the UK population. Most clubs do not sell all the tickets for games, and a reputation for being well adapted and welcoming to disabled supporters should enhance their reputations generally. Conversely, it could be considered a reputational risk—and one which sponsors would have to take seriously—if clubs continued to fail to engage with reasonable adjustments and thereby be in breach of the law. (Paragraph 41)

8.The Premier League told us that it would consider imposing sanctions on clubs that fail to provide sufficient accessibility. However, it is not clear whether this relates only to the physical modifications that should be made to stadia, rather than the broader view of the quality of the overall experience for supporters with disabilities. Given 20 years of comparative inactivity by the football leagues, we are not convinced that the Premier League would impose suitable penalties on clubs, even for failing to meet building regulations. (Paragraph 42)

9.The Equality and Human Rights Commission has told us that it is minded to start legal proceedings against clubs that continue to flout the law. We support them in this action. (Paragraph 43)

13 January 2017