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Grounds lagging behind for disabled fans

At least eight Premier League clubs won’t make agreed improvements until the start of next season

Published in Sports Management 13 Jun 2016 issue 122
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Level Playing Field chair Joyce Cook
Level Playing Field chair Joyce Cook

At least eight Premier League clubs are not expected to complete agreed improvements to their stadiums for disabled spectators by the start of next season.

Talking at a Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing into accessibility at sports venues, Level Playing Field chair and Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) board member Joyce Cook said there had been “lots of excuses” made by Premier League clubs in relation to the required improvements.

In 2015 the Premier League made the pledge that all 20 clubs would be compliant with the Accessible Stadia Guide – the SGSA handbook for making grounds disabled-friendly – by August 2017.

However, Cook said that at least eight would not have completed the work and that a number will only have formulated plans by the deadline – a situation she called “worrying” and “obscene”, considering the amount of revenue Premier League clubs generate and spend on wages and player transfers.

She said a number of non-compliant clubs had explained that their grounds would be used for events during summer 2016, leaving summer 2017 as the first appropriate date for the relevant work to begin.

Cook told the committee – chaired by Conservative MP Jesse Norman – that she “wasn’t buying” the explanation and highlighted that Manchester United had constructed two quadrants for disabled people at Old Trafford in the middle of a Premier League season.

Derby County FC and non-league club Wrexham were commended for the improvements they had made for disabled people in their respective stadiums, but Cook said the “situation was dire” across all sports for disabled spectators.

Grounds with capacities of at least 600 should have one per cent of space dedicated to disabled spectators, but Cook said only 5 per cent of First Class county cricket grounds were meeting this requirement, while only one Premiership Rugby stadium could claim that figure, despite support from governing bodies to improve.

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