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FOOTIE_mainALL Premier League clubs have agreed to improve access for disabled supporters by August 2017.

Fifteen out of 20 clubs will have to increase capacity to comply with guidelines on accessible stadiums.

A Premier League statement said: “We are undertaking our own assessment by surveying every Premier League stadium to determine improvements for disabled access.

“Disability access was discussed at the Premier League shareholders meeting last week with several new proposals agreed.

“All Premier League Clubs have agreed to make their stadiums compliant with the Accessible Stadia Guide by August 2017.”

Joyce Cook OBE, chair of Level Playing Field charity, welcomed the news:

“It has been a very long time coming (more than 14 years) but we wholeheartedly welcome this announcement.

“The promises will ensure that many more disabled fans can finally enjoy a fair and equal experience alongside fellow fans, friends and family.

“For disabled football fans this is huge news but as always, the proof will be in the pudding. Level Playing Field looks forward to working with the PL and its clubs to deliver on their promises.

“Today is a very good day for disabled football fans and for the Premier League. It is a day to remember with some pride and with many thanks to everyone involved in making this happen.”

On Monday, a Government report criticised the inadequate facilities and support for disabled fans at Premier League grounds.

The ‘Inclusive and Accessible Stadia Report’ highlights the frustrations of disabled sports fans across the UK and found that some disabled fans are unable to sit with their children, or with their fellow supporters, when attending matches.

Other complaints include:

  • Not being able to move around the stadium easily.
  • Disabled parking spaces being taken up by limos or TV crews.
  • A lack of disability awareness among stewards and staff, particularly when dealing with hidden disabilities.

Commenting on the report, Minister for Disabled People Justin Tomlinson MP said:

“As a life-long sports fan, I take it for granted that I can support my team each weekend. Everyone should have that same opportunity, and it’s absolutely unacceptable that this is clearly not the case.

“Sport has a proud history of rising to social challenges and I urge clubs to stand by their disabled fans, just as their fans stand by them.

“This report paints a compelling picture of the challenges faced by disabled sports fans – their voices can no longer be ignored, and there can be no excuses for in action.”

Monday’s report – done jointly by the Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Culture, Media and Sport – recommends:

  • 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.