​Lawyer who specialises in discrimination cases welcomes report regarding disabled access to sports stadiums

A lawyer who specialises in discrimination cases has welcomed a report by the Culture, Media and Sports select committee regarding disabled access to sports stadiums.

The report published earlier this week criticises Premier League football clubs for failing to comply with disabled access requirements and states that clubs could face heavy fines and even points deductions if they do not meet the requirements set out by the Accessible Stadia Guide by the deadline of August 2017.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has told the select committee that it may bring legal action against clubs that do not comply with the law and the committee has pledged to support them in this action.

The committee states in the report: “We consider it completely unacceptable that a number of Premier League clubs—some of the richest sporting organisations in the UK—have failed to carry out even basic adaptations in over 20 years.”

Although some of the changes needed, such as extra wheelchair spaces, adequate lifts and more disabled toilets, may require substantial building work the report states that many clubs are undergoing or planning major building work to which these elements could be included. The report also lists other, less expensive, requirements such as disability awareness training, professional access audits and design appraisals which could improve the experience of disabled fans.

Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee, Damian Collins, said: "When we see examples of good practice at some clubs that are already providing disabled supporters with a good experience when they attend matches, it is especially disappointing that some of the rich clubs are not doing more.

"Sports fans with disabilities are not asking for a large number of expensive changes - only to have their needs taken into account in the way sports stadia are designed and operated.

"It is high time that sports clubs, especially for example those with plenty of resources as in football's Premier League, changed their mindset."

Emma Satyamurti, partner in law firm Leigh Day’s employment team, has written a guide for disabled sport fans and has worked with a number of organisations on disability issues.

She said: “It is unacceptable that many of the big clubs in the Premier League, with all the millions of pounds they make each year, are still not willing to provide adequate access to disabled fans.

“I hope that the select committee’s report will provoke swift action from those clubs who are currently failing to meet their obligations on disability access to ensure that disabled sports fans have equal access to enjoy watching and supporting the teams that they love.”