Most accessible sports grounds
5th October 2017
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
Sport is a fantastic leveller as people from every walk of life make up the fan bases that support and cheer for local teams. However many venues are slow to make their facilities accessible to all their fans.
This can be thoroughly disheartening to less mobile supporters who wish to attend and cheer on their team, but can’t due to limited amenities. Those who rely on a stairlift can find themselves stranded at some of the most expensive sporting facilities in the UK.
What should be an inclusive atmosphere can sometimes leave people feeling unwelcome and undervalued, especially when cost is cited as a reason for the limited progress towards an accessible stadium. This is not true for all venues. Thankfully some clubs, stadiums and outside parties are working on ensuring that the experience is the best for all those who wish to support them.
Here some major names in the sporting world explain how they are moving towards a more accessible future.
The football industry has been under the most pressure and clubs have made improvements to their venues. Different clubs have different strategies to remaining inclusive and accessible.
When it comes to monitoring safety at these venues, it is down to the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) who have also put the guidelines in place for accessibility:
“The SGSA is the government body that regulates safety at football stadiums. We do have some guidance for accessibility at sports grounds called Accessible Stadia you can find it on the website. It is important that sports grounds are accessible for all.”
Manchester City – Etihad Stadium
As one of the major clubs in the Premier League, it is important that it is accessible to all fans. Speaking to Manchester City Disabled Supporters Association (MCDSA) representative, Mark Barber, he said:
“City is now the club that is the most compliant Premier League club towards the Accessible Stadia Guide. Not only does it have the level access and visual and audio aids for impaired supporters, but it has double the number of accessible bathrooms, more than expected number of parking spaces and lots of accessible space in the stadium for fans with limited mobility.”
When it comes to ensuring inclusivity the MCDSA goes to great lengths in order for everyone to support the team:
“The MCDSA work with the club to smooth over any mobility difficulties and ensure it is a positive environment. The club has its own access officers and dedicated channels of communication for those with questions about accessibility.”
“The MCDSA also organise events for supporters to spend time together in an inclusive environment. These events are often attended by upwards of 70 people, and we are often joined by former players, referees, journalists, actors and radio hosts who have an affiliation with the sport.”
Mr Barber feels strongly when it comes to accessibility within football and though Manchester City has made positive in roads, he feels a lack of accessibility should be made more aware:
“Incredibly, The Premier League’s promise in 2015 to improve access was a step forward, but the time for talk is finished. The Premier League Clubs that committed to comply with official guidance by August and have failed to should be penalised. Though a lot of pressure has been put on sport, this should be enforced in many areas. Often high streets are inaccessible, with many shops excluding customers with limited mobility.”
Cricket is part of British summer tradition and whether played on a village green or under the eye of the nation, it should be attended by everyone who wishes to. Though many grounds are old and therefore unwieldy towards modernisation, progress is still being made.
Lord’S Cricket Ground
Home to the world’s oldest sporting museum and renowned as the ‘Home of Cricket’, Lord’s is a trendsetter in the sport. With that in mind, the ground is ensuring inclusivity is at the forefront of refurbishments and Russel Seymour, Sustainability manager at Lord’s, is quick to speak of the positive attitude of Lord’s:
“We welcome everybody and are doing our best to reflect that. We are an old ground, we have been here for over 200 years and some of our buildings are over 100 years-old. We have always had spaces for disabled spectators, but we have to improve and modernise them; it takes some time to install accessible facilities, but we are getting there.”
“We run an accessibility group with disabled members from the community to ensure our adaptations work for them. We want to understand their opinions because we want to welcome everyone.”
As an ongoing project to improve their facilities, there is a clear plan for the ongoing developments:
“We have a plan that we have committed funds to that takes us up to 2022. After an audit in 2015 done by Level Playing Field as part of a plan for all cricket by the governing body the ECB, we have been working through those requirements. We have improved our bathroom facilities considerably. It has meant we have prioritised certain larger aspects but we still intend to address everything that was brought to our attention, from mobility ramps to manifestos on windows.”
Though the poor press has put football under the microscope, it has inspired many other sports to look at their own facilities with a critical eye and assess their accessibility. Russel is clear that Lord’s intends to be a trailblazer in the cricket community when it comes to the importance of inclusivity:
“It should be and I am sure it will be. We realise we are a high profile ground for the sport and though this is not the main reason for our adaptations, it is one of the reasons as we lead by example. With our upcoming redevelopment, we intend to meet more of the requirements brought up in the audit and continue to adapt so we are able to welcome everyone.”
As the UK is the birthplace of rugby it should be in the UK that both the sport and attitudes towards inclusivity evolve. Rugby is often the sport of choice in Scotland and Wales, being more popular than football and garnering an avid following of fans, all of whom should be able to see their favourite teams play.
Home of the Worcester Warriors, this venue is not only accessible, but it is also home to the ‘Lead the Way’ Campaign. The Stadium has disabled parking spaces, step-free access and disabled bathrooms, but it is also making a really positive contribution to the community.
The Community Foundation focuses on engaging people who would otherwise be isolated including those disengaged from mainstream education:
“We are an inclusive rugby club and we specialise in adapted games for people with mental health issues, physical disabilities and people who have become isolated within their community.”
The ‘Lead the Way’ Campaign focuses on introducing people from many walks of life to watching or playing the sport and supporting them through the journey:
“Through our Lead the Way campaign we ensure people are able to enjoy playing rugby through one of our programmes and enjoy watching rugby by giving people the opportunity to come to Sixways for the first time while supporting them through their match day experience. We break down barriers and ensure vulnerable people feel safe in our stadium.”
“This initiative, developed and led by the Warriors Community Foundation has now raised over £10,000 for the Guide Dogs charity which means that the Warriors family is now the proud sponsor of three guide dogs – Max, Biggsy and Jonny.”
An ancient sport that has so many variations, horse racing is part of the British psyche, defined by Ascot and Cheltenham. Whether people enjoy the pageantry of the sport or simply love being close to these majestic animals, the venues should all be accessible.
Scottish Racing – Ayr, Hamilton Park, Kelso, Musselburgh, Perth
Scottish Racing is an organisation that promotes, fosters and develops the five racecourses in Scotland. They are keen to ensure accessibility is at the heart of their racecourses and all five have been adapted to suit their visitors’ needs. Ian from Scottish Racecourses has spent time promoting the accessibility of the different venues and was keen to share the progress that has been made:
“At each of our five racecourses, we ensure that there is provision for anyone with mobility needs in terms of clear, well signed and level surfaces and viewing areas. We try to go out of our way to help anyone requiring assistance and our staff are always on hand to help”
Horse racing is a sport that appeals to a wide variety of people and thus an inclusive attitude is necessary:
“In a recent survey, 93% of racegoers agreed that racing in Scotland “successfully brought together people from all walks of life”. Racing has always been a sport enjoyed by such a huge variety of people that our racecourses are constantly adapting to continue to meet this need.”
Scottish Racing is keen to continue to adapt their visitor’s needs. They understand their audience covers people of many different abilities and their facilities need to constantly evolve to meet their needs. Ian spoke about the regular assessment each racecourse undergoes:
“At the end of every racing season, each of our racecourses meet to discuss strategies to adapt to meet any needs that have been addressed over the past months. We are constantly assessing needs and taking note of industry updates to ensure that we are at the cutting edge of accessible needs in Scotland.”