Disabled sports fans' views sought
Disabled sports fans are being asked by the Government to take part in the largest ever survey of their experiences as spectators, after a survey suggested that as many as half of Premier League football clubs are operating "discriminatory" season ticket policies.
The research by charity Level Playing Field, which campaigns for equal access to sports grounds and stadiums, found that "disproportionately small" numbers of Premier League season tickets go to wheelchair users, while some clubs have complex pre-registration schemes for disabled fans which are not imposed on other season ticket applicants. Some exclude disabled people from using online ticketing services.
Ministers have described the situation at football grounds as "unacceptable", and are calling on Britain's 12 million people with disabilities to take part in the new survey to establish the most comprehensive view possible of their treatment at sports grounds around the country.
They are looking for opinions on everything from wheelchair access and disabled parking to accessible toilets, hearing loops and treatment by other supporters at live sporting fixtures. Organisers want to hear from fans of all sports - and in particular rugby, cricket, football, hockey, basketball, cycling and motor-racing.
Earlier this year, the Government called on Britain's football leagues to take urgent action to redress the "woeful" lack of appropriate support and space for disabled spectators, reminding them of their legal obligations to provide adequate room and adjustments for disabled fans.
Research showed nearly half of Premier League football clubs do not offer half the wheelchair space they should for disabled people.
Minister for disabled people Mark Harper said: "For too long in this country, disabled sports fans have been treated like second-class citizens at many sporting venues. And yet one in five of us have an impairment, and disabled people and their households have a spending power of over £200 billion.
"We know the situation in football is unacceptable and it's not only wheelchair access that falls short, but adjustments for people with all kinds of impairments. We encourage all sports fans with a disability to tell us of their experiences at sporting venues, so we can get a clear picture of whether disabled sports fans are being treated fairly."
And sports m inister Helen Grant said: "We know that lots of clubs, like Arsenal, are making improvements but more can still be done across sport to make stadiums more accessible and the match-day experience better for disabled fans. This is what this survey is all about - giving disabled sports fans the chance to air their views so that we can help make watching live sport fantastic for them.
"The Commonwealth Games this summer showed what is possible and how sport can cater brilliantly for disabled fans and I am confident that sports governing bodies will step up and deliver on this."
Joyce Cook, from Level Playing Field, said: "The experience of disabled sports fans varies across the country. Our research shows that many clubs are operating what seem to be discriminatory policies when it comes to season and away tickets.
"And if you can actually get there, the inability to sit with your own fans, poor sight lines and the lack of accessible provisions can be so bad that you would have had a better experience watching it on TV. That's not acceptable and it's time all clubs and venues took their legal obligations seriously - and recognised the value of the purple pound."