The BBC have today reported that all twenty Premier League clubs have agreed that "more must be done" to support their disabled fans. This follows pressure from the Government of the United Kingdom following a BBC report that found only seventeen of England's top twenty clubs were providing enough seats for disabled fans.
Fifteen of the twenty teams have also agreed to increase stadium capacity so that their stadiums can be certified as 'accessible'. It's unknown whether Aston Villa are included, but it is more than likely considering Villa Park is the eighth largest stadium in the Premier League and that puts it's outside the bracket of five teams which already fit the criteria (likely Manchester United, Arsenal, West Ham's Olympic Stadium, Newcastle United and Manchester City).
A joint Government taskforce made up of the Department for Work & Pensions (Who have a less than savoury reputation) and the Department for Culture, Media & Sport completed a report outlining the key changes Premier League clubs must undertake. I've pasted a few below.
- Planning attendance: Clubs should provide attendance for all groups of disabled people. They should provide information such as stadium distance from local parking and gradient of pavements.
- Buying a ticket: Clubs should allow disabled spectators to buy tickets online. They should provide wheelchair seating that allows disabled spectators to sit with family and friends.
- Travelling to and from the venue: Clubs should provide up to date transport information.
- Overall experience: Match day and club stewards should be given disability awareness training, while abusive behaviour towards disabled spectators should not be tolerated.
- Aids and adaptations: Clubs should increase the number of wheelchair user places for stadiums with more than 10,000 seats.- The Government's list of key changes for Premier League Clubs
The issue regarding the treatment of disabled fans in the Premier League has heated up in recent months, we spoke about it ourselves and the Premier League was actually threatened with legal action back in June by the European Human Rights Commission.
Aston Villa didn't speak about this issue publicly, but actions speak louder than words and this statement of intent by all twenty Premier League clubs shows a move in the correct direction following similar campaigns against racism and homophobia in the Premier League.
So it will come to be that no wheelchair, brace, cane or crutch will stop disabled Villa fans from supporting their club - but it still begs the question - should it have ever come to the threat of legal action in the first place?