Football League clubs 'failing to meet disabled guidelines'

Wheelchair user Joshua Gardner at Huddersfield Town FC
Image caption BBC reporter and wheelchair user Joshua Gardner found even Huddersfield Town FC, considered to be a good ground for wheelchair users, had a steep slope and uncovered seating

Many football league clubs in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire "provide insufficiently" for wheelchair users, the BBC has found.

Non-compulsory guidelines on how clubs should cater for disabled fans have been in place since 2004.

A BBC Inside Out report found that several clubs, including Sheffield United and Scunthorpe United, were under-performing.

Sheffield United has 91 fewer seats than the recommended amount.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption In 2015, Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said Premier League clubs needed to "step up" in providing adequate facilities for disabled fans

The Accessible Stadia Guide, a set of government guidelines, states the minimum standard to which all newly-constructed grounds have to meet in the provision, location, and quality of facilities for disabled fans.

Clubs in existing grounds must make "reasonable adjustments" to make sure everyone can access their services.

Along with Sheffield United, other grounds with far fewer seats than the guidelines recommend include Scunthorpe United (72 fewer), Leeds United (57 fewer) and Bradford City (40 fewer).

York City and Doncaster Rovers have 14 and 13 fewer respectively, while Hull City have just 144 of the recommended 162 seats. In contrast, Huddersfield Town and Rotherham United each have 10 more seats for disabled fans than required.

Barnsley FC and Sheffield Wednesday did not respond to the survey.

Across the country, less than a third of football league clubs meet the recommendations for wheelchair spectator provision.

Burnley FC in the Championship has the lowest rate of wheelchair spaces compared with the guideline target, with 110 fewer seats than it should have.

Meanwhile, Blackburn Rovers has 109 more seats for wheelchair users than the target.

In League One, Southend United is worst for wheelchair provision with 90 fewer seats, while Blackpool is best with 30 more than required.

In League Two, Carlisle United has 120 seats fewer than recommended while Luton Town has 18 more.

Fulham, QPR, Reading, Bury, Chesterfield, Coventry City, Fleetwood Town, Swindon Town, Cambridge United, Hartlepool United and Leyton Orient did not respond to the survey.

The Football League said clubs were working hard to "deliver the match day experience that disabled supporters deserve", in line with the government's recent Inclusive and Accessible Stadia report and the views of disabled rights campaigners.

"Instead of spending resources on extra capacity for which there may be no demand, our focus is to improve the match-day experience for those disabled supporters that do attend," it said.

"87% of league clubs [in England] now employ dedicated staff to assist disabled fans, 86% of clubs ensure that away disabled supporters sit with their fellow away fans, and 97% of clubs provide accessible parking or drop off points for disabled fans."

In September, Premier League clubs agreed to improve access for disabled supporters by August 2017 after a government report criticised inadequate facilities and support at Premier League grounds.

Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson said increasing the number of seats was among the areas for improvement.

"A disability shouldn't be a barrier to attending sporting events," he said.

Image caption The Accessible Stadia Guide sets out a minimum standard which all newly-constructed grounds have to meet in the provision, location, and quality of facilities for disabled fans.

Inside Out Yorkshire and Lincolnshire is broadcast on Monday, 7 March at 19:30 GMT on BBC One, and nationwide on the iPlayer for seven days thereafter.

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