Sports ground accessibility

Health and safety | September 2018

football fansSpectator enjoyment – it’s about more than the game

Watching sport is an exciting and immersive experience. And in our view, this is about more than just the game itself: sports ground accessibility is key to making the experience accessible and inclusive to all. So what can operators do to ensure this is the case?

The fan experience goes beyond the sporting contest itself, encompassing planning visits, buying tickets, travelling to and from games, buying merchandise, eating, drinking and socialising. The challenge is to make the whole experience easy for spectators and visitors to participate in.

Imagine facing accessibility barriers at a sports venue

Imagine being unable to book a ticket to see your favourite team play, because you can’t read the text on the online booking form. Or arriving at the venue and not being able to easily reach your seat, because you can’t navigate the steps up to the stand, and there’s no alternative access route.

real world accessibility quotes from disabled peopleThese are just two common real world examples, that demonstrate how sports ground accessibility needs to improve. There’s still a long way to go to ensure that supporters who are disabled, elderly or who have temporary injuries or ill health, are able to support their teams as easily as the next person.


How many people are affected by sports ground accessibility challenges?

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Inclusive and Accessible Stadia Report stated that in 2013/14 there were 6.5 million mobility impaired people in the UK, 3.4 million people with dexterity conditions, 1.7 million with hearing impairments and 1.5 million with visual impairments. It is safe to assume that many of these people would like to attend sports events.


Reasons to make a change

Under the Equality Act 2010, service providers and public venues must anticipate the needs of disabled customers. Those responsible for sports grounds need to be proactive, identifying and removing barriers to accessibility – not waiting for those at a disadvantage to complain.

Accessible Stadiaquote about sports ground accessibility, published by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, provides guidance on the design of stadia facilities and provisions for disabled people. Meanwhile, The Accessible Sports Ground Bill is currently being read by the House of Commons with the aim of it becoming law. The Bill proposes giving local authorities the power to refuse safety certificates for stadia which do not meet accessible guidelines.

quote about sports ground accessibilityDespite the existence of pertinent legislation and guidance, investment in UK sports ground accessibility still has a way to go. The DWP’s report found that spectators experienced difficulties from the planning stages, such as buying tickets, through to using facilities like cafes, toilets and parking provision.

profile of fan with floodlit stadium in background


So, what are the barriers to making changes?

Not surprisingly perhaps, money is an issue when it comes to improving accessibility. The DWP report also found that clubs and venues doubted their own level of competency and awareness on accessibility standards and requirements. Additionally, there are concerns that accessibility is not high enough on the agenda when it comes to allocating available funding.

Of course, many sports venues pre-date today’s accessibility legislation and guidance. Some of them were constructed over 100 years ago, when we did not fully understand the needs of disabled people, and certainly before equality became the important topic that it is today. However ‘reasonable adjustments’ do not mean knocking down premises and starting again – there are other things that can be done to improve accessibility.


What can be done to help?

Many clubs and venues could make simple adjustments to improve accessibility, without investing large sums. These could include:

  • Making accessibility a board level agenda item to ensure funding is allocated appropriately.
  • Conducting an access audit of the venue, paying close attention to spectator areas.
  • Undertaking an access audit of the venue’s website to ensure it meets guidelines, is accessible to all and easy to navigate.
  • Consulting with spectators and disabled supporter groups to find out what works well for them – and what could be better.
  • Thinking beyond physical disabilities to include sensory, neurological or development conditions, when considering accessibility.

female spectator at game

It’s also important that disabled visitors can easily access other information relating to the venue. For example: local transport connections and planned transport engineering work; car parking facilities; walking routes and distances; details of step-free access routes; and the time needed to exit the stadium, will all help create a better experience.

At System Concepts, we offer a range of support to help venue operators and and clubs improve sports ground accessibility. Contact us to find out more about how we can help.

Speech bubbleHow we can help with sports ground accessibility

Contact our health and safety consultants for expert help


Resources

Download the SGSA’s Accessible Stadia report

Download the DWP’s Inclusive and Accessible Stadia Report

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