Disabled campaigners have said they are “extremely disappointed” at the failure of a review of football governance in England to include more than a passing mention of disabled fans.
The Fan Led Review of Football Governance, published last week, was commissioned by the government, and it was led by Tory MP and former sports minister Tracey Crouch.
But across the report’s 162 pages, there is just one mention of disabled people, despite the disabled-led campaigning charity Level Playing Field (LPF) submitting 14 pages of written evidence to the review team.
The only recommendation from the review that mentions disability – out of 47 – is a call for the current football leadership diversity code to expand beyond ethnicity and gender to include other under-represented groups, including disabled people.
Although there are several references to the mental health of current and former players, there is just one mention of accessibility, and that is only the claim that the “financialisation” of the game has allowed clubs to “invest in their stadiums to allow more fans to watch games in good, safe, and accessible facilities”.
In the evidence it submitted to the review, LPF, which represents disabled sports fans, said: “Effective (and representative) governance, along with a determined commitment to access and inclusion is essential to ensure that clubs do actually serve their disabled supporters (the largest minority group in their local community).”
LPF said this week that Crouch’s review was a “significant piece of work” but that it was “extremely disappointed, but sadly not surprised, at the lack of reference to disabled fans and the importance of disabled supporters’ voices in the governance of our national sport”.
It said it would have liked to see, “at the very least”, minimum and measurable accessibility standards across football clubs, board representation for disabled people, and “regular and meaningful structured dialogue” with disabled fans.
Only three months ago, an LPF survey highlighted the continuing barriers disabled supporters face in accessing sports venues, and found that almost a third (30 per cent) of disabled fans who took part said there were some sports venues they felt unable to visit because of access failings.
Tony Taylor, LPF’s chair, said: “We engaged with the fan led review panel with a short 30-minute discussion and submitted 14 pages of written evidence.
“We warmly welcome the recommendations outlined in the report; however, we are disappointed that reference to disability inclusion and disabled fans is very thin.
“Once again, we want to emphasise the need for disability representation in footballing governance, to shape and deliver appropriate inclusion.
“The review was signposted as a once in a generation opportunity and we trust that this will not go on to emphasise that the only voice that matters is one without a disability.”
In his response to the review, sports minister Nigel Huddleston said the government would respond to the review in the new year.
But he said the government already endorsed the review’s “primary recommendation”, that English football should have a strong, independent regulator.
Crouch had not commented by noon today (Thursday) on why the views and concerns of disabled fans appear to have been almost completely ignored by her review.
Picture: Access at Wembley Stadium. Picture by Wembley Stadium
A note from the editor:
Please consider making a voluntary financial contribution to support the work of DNS and allow it to continue producing independent, carefully-researched news stories that focus on the lives and rights of disabled people and their user-led organisations.
Please do not contribute if you cannot afford to do so, and please note that DNS is not a charity. It is run and owned by disabled journalist John Pring and has been from its launch in April 2009.
Thank you for anything you can do to support the work of DNS…