After reviewing football stadium accessibility across the UK, Leonard Cheshire’s Nick Bishop continues to investigate wheelchair access at Premier League football grounds in the second of a two-part series. After in-depth visits to several major clubs, part two offers a quick guide to the rest of the Premier League.
Football clubs, like all service providers, have a legal duty under the Equality Act – they must make “reasonable adjustments” to ensure they do not discriminate against disabled people.
Clubs know their objectives on stadium access – the Football Task Force (1998) and the Accessible Stadia guidelines or ASGs (2003, updated in 2015) provide clear targets.
Amongst these is the requirement for clubs to have a certain minimum number of wheelchair spaces (based on their stadium size), and 75% of them should be elevated. Yet some clubs fail to meet even these basic targets.
All clubs falling behind on accessibility were contacted for comment. While several gave their current data and latest updates, others did not respond to enquiries. Data included was gathered from Equality and Human Rights Commission State of Play reports, Level Playing Field (LPF) and club websites.
Read on to find out which Premier League clubs are hitting the back of the net when it comes to accessibility, and which need a red card…
Arsenal – Emirates stadium accessibility
Total stadium capacity: 60,260
Arsenal meets almost all of the requirements under the Accessible Stadia guidelines (ASGs) at the Emirates stadium. It has two types of elevated wheelchair platform – lower tier platforms and upper tier.
Spaces in the lower tier are not quite compliant as the PA spaces are behind the wheelchair user. However, the EHRC says that Arsenal consulted with fans who were apparently happy with this. Away fans are also on a lower platform.
Whilst Arsenal’s Emirates stadium meets the criteria for the number of wheelchair spaces, infrastructure is in place to create even more should there be demand. The stadium also has commentary with full audio description for visually impaired fans.
Bournemouth – Vitality stadium (Dean Court) accessibility
Total stadium capacity: 11,450 (approx.)
Dean Court is the smallest stadium in the league and not currently owned by the club. Bournemouth meets the minimum number of wheelchair spaces there, has a Changing Places toilet and facilities for people with autism.
But the stadium does not meet ASG requirements for the minimum amount of elevated spaces. However, it does have two very good home wheelchair platforms and a small one for away fans. Bournemouth also consults regularly with supporters.
Plans for a new stadium are currently on hold.
Brighton and Hove Albion – Amex stadium accessibility
Total stadium capacity: 30,666
Brighton meets almost all of the ASG requirements at the Amex stadium. It has a large number of good-quality wheelchair spaces with PA spaces alongside them. It only falls very slightly short of the required elevated spaces – 70% of spaces are elevated and not 75%.
Brighton has installed a new inclusion room and has commentary with full audio description for visually impaired fans.
Burnley – Turf Moor stadium accessibility
Total stadium capacity: 21,401
Burnley’s Turf Moor stadium does not meet ASG requirements. The club has entered into an informal agreement with the EHRC.
Away supporters are likely to remain at pitch level.
Cardiff City – Cardiff City stadium accessibility
Total stadium capacity: 33,280
Cardiff was promoted to the Premier League in 2018, so the club has until August 2020 to comply with access requirements.
The club’s stadium exceeds the minimum wheelchair space requirements for its stadium size. It has 190 wheelchair spaces, 83% of which are elevated. The club plans to have a Changing Places toilet in May 2019 and a sensory room next season.
Everton – Goodison Park stadium accessibility
Total stadium capacity: 39,000 approx.
Everton recently made great efforts to bring Goodison Park into compliance with ASG requirements. It created an impressive number of elevated wheelchair spaces, including new platforms for home fans and a platform with four spaces for away fans.
Later in 2019, Everton will hand Liverpool City Council a planning application for a new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock. It intends to begin construction within six months of approval. Construction will take approximately three years.
Huddersfield Town – John Smith’s stadium accessibility
Total stadium capacity: 24,100 (approx.)
After the joining the league in 2017, relegated Huddersfield has until August 2019 to meet requirements under the Premier League pledge.
In December 2018 Level Playing Field reported the stadium had 177 wheelchair spaces, an improvement that would exceed the minimum requirement for its stadium. But at the time of the EHRC visits, it did not meet other requirements, such as elevated spaces. This remains unclear.
A home fan adds on LPF report that the away platform for eight fans was upgraded by removing seats in the row in front.
Leicester City – King Power stadium accessibility
Total stadium capacity: 32,312
Leicester meets the minimum number of wheelchair spaces but not elevated spaces at the King Power stadium.
Its current access guide for visiting fans paints a similar picture to a game I saw in 2017 – a low platform for a small number of away fans. Last summer the club had plans for stadium expansion by 2020/21, though current plans are unclear.
Liverpool – Anfield stadium accessibility
Total stadium capacity: 54,074
Liverpool’s Anfield stadium meets most ASG requirements and has an elevated platform for away fans.
But, the stadium does not have enough elevated wheelchair spaces overall. The EHRC says the club “consulted extensively,” and fans in the Kop end were particularly happy to stay at pitch level.
The EHRC also says that a proposed redevelopment of the Anfield Road Stand would enable Liverpool to meet requirements for more elevated seating while retaining pitch-level options. However, plans seem on hold while Liverpool invests in new training facilities and take things “one bite at a time.”
Newcastle United – St James’ Park stadium accessibility
Total stadium capacity: 52,534
Newcastle was promoted to the Premier League in 2017. Recent work on the stadium ensured full compliance with the ASG.
Away supporters are on the very high level 7 platform. The club’s Access Guide says: “Supporters with a fear of heights may feel unnerved by the view of the stadium from level 7.”
However, Newcastle recently said that if away supporters were moved to a lower area, the club “would be issued with a safety certificate due to crowd flow.”
Southampton – St Mary’s stadium accessibility
Total stadium capacity: 32,500 (approx..)
Southampton’s stadium meets most ASG requirements but falls way short on elevated spaces – while 75% should be elevated, it’s currently just 37%.
Nevertheless, the EHRC praised Southampton for its “positive attitude to improving the facilities for disabled supporters.” The club says it is currently “investigating various options.”
West Ham – London stadium accessibility
Total stadium capacity: 60,000
Formerly the Olympic stadium, West Ham’s ground meets all ASG requirements.
Football fans are far away from the pitch due to the athletics track. But, in future, some home and away fans in the lower tiers behind the goal, may have a slightly better view as West Ham has announced plans to begin bringing stands forward.
Wolverhampton Wanderers – Molineux stadium accessibility
Total stadium capacity: 32,050
Wolves club was promoted to the Premier League in 2018. Its stadium does not meet targets for minimum wheelchair spaces, nor have enough elevated positions. But it does have an access statement and a Disabled Supporters’ Lounge that doubles as a temporary sensory room. It’s currently investigating options to install a Changing Places toilet.
The club has plans to develop the whole stadium from 2020. A spokesperson said:
“The club is currently working through the ASGs. Scheduled plans will include improving ground capacity, facilities and matchday experience for disabled fans. This is looking to be from 2020 onwards. The future looks bright at Molineux with the plans that are in progress.”
Read part one of Nick’s football stadiums’ accessibility reviewed to read more about his experiences of visiting each stadium.
By Nick Bishop
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