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Premier League disabled fans 'forgotten' by some clubs despite transfer riches

Published 08/08/2015

The cost of providing a wheelchair space varies from stadium to stadium but is estimated to be in the low thousands
The cost of providing a wheelchair space varies from stadium to stadium but is estimated to be in the low thousands

Premier League clubs have been criticised for spending millions of pounds on players ahead of the new season while failing to provide facilities for disabled fans.

Shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant warned disabled fans are being "forgotten" by several top clubs which have yet to make their grounds "inclusive and accessible for all".

Figures produced by his office claim seven clubs would need to spend the equivalent of less than 3% of the cash they have used for transfer fees this summer in order to provide the recommended number of wheelchair spaces.

The majority of the 20 clubs in the top division do not offer the minimum number of wheelchair places recommended for stadiums, with Swansea City, AFC Bournemouth and Leicester City known to meet the target.

Peers are seeking to give local authorities the power to refuse to issue a safety certificate to a sports ground which does not comply with accessible stadia guidelines, with sponsors and broadcasters also urged to pull out of football if progress is not made.

Their push for a law change last month included highlighting cases of abuse against disabled fans at Liverpool and claims a pensioner at Manchester United had his walking stick taken off him by stewards.

Mr Bryant's office said their data assesses the amount of cash spent on transfer fees by each club this summer, as of August 4, compared with the estimated costs - compiled by charity Level Playing Field - of upgrading their respective grounds to meet the minimum requirements for disabled fans.

The transfer fee data does not take into consideration how much clubs have recouped by selling players.

Some of the biggest deals include Raheem Sterling's move from Liverpool to Manchester City in a deal reported to be worth up to £49 million and Christian Benteke's £32.5 million transfer to Liverpool from Aston Villa.

The cost of providing a wheelchair space varies from stadium to stadium but is estimated to be in the low thousands.

Labour MP Mr Bryant said: "The Government said they would act a year ago but as the new season kicks off there's no evidence they've done anything to force the clubs, the Premier League and the FA to sit down and insist improvements are made.

"We need an end on the unfair and complex schemes for disabled fans to get tickets for matches, the lack of audio provision in stadia and the restrictions on guide dogs.

"It isn't right that clubs are failing their disabled fans and we need to see real action and improvements this season."

Justin Tomlinson, minister for disabled people, said Premier League clubs are being pushed to deal with the problem.

He said all sports clubs - from the elite levels to the grassroots - should do "everything possible" to make their facilities accessible to all.

Mr Tomlinson said: "Everyone should have the opportunity to attend matches and support their side, not be shut out because of a disability.

"Sports clubs must stand by their fans, just as their fans stand by them.

"It's clear more action is needed and we are pushing Premier League clubs to address this problem in the game."

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