Sports ground accessibility


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.

These 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.

Disabled people share their experiences…

“Difficulty travelling to and from using public transport”

“Not enough disabled coaches supplying transport”

“Lack of parking for blue badge holders”

How many people are affected by sports ground accessibility challenges?

There are 14.1 people in the UK living with a disability; 7 million with mobility impairments, 3.5 million people with dexterity impairments, 1.9 million with hearing impairments and 1.7 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 - "Almost impossible to buy a drink as a hearing impaired person unless you write it down and hand it to the bar staff.", published by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority in 2003, which provides guidance on the design of stadia facilities and provisions for disabled people. And more recently (in 2015) they have published Accessible Stadia Supplementary guidance, which provides an update in relation to current legislation and good practice, and includes a number of ways in which good design and management of new and existing sports grounds can reduce or remove barriers to access.

Quote about sports ground accessibility - "Lack of disabled toilets for the use of non-wheelchair users - stewards stopped me using them despite having a RADAR key." "Not enough disabled toilets access as a Crohn's sufferer I had to que for 20 minutes uncomfortable to use a toilet"Despite the existence of pertinent legislation and guidance, investment in UK sports ground accessibility still has a way to go. Level Playing Field’s research has found that spectators experienced difficulties from the planning stages, such as buying tickets, through to using facilities like cafes, toilets and parking provision.

(alt="profile of fan cheering with the 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. Reports have 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 bubbleWe are  to help with all of your accessibility needs…

Contact our consultants for expert help


Download the SGSA’s Accessible Stadia report

Download the DWP’s Inclusive and Accessible Stadia Report

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