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The truth of Disabled sports fandom – survey reveals significant shortcomings in access

News about the results of Level Plating Field’s annual fan survey of Disabled football fans.

Level Playing Field, a charity that focuses on removing barriers for Disabled people wishing to follow live sports as fans, has revealed the results of its annual fan survey. The organisation believes that attending and engaging with live sporting events has a positive impact on well-being. They work at every level to ensure that Disabled fans can freely access and enjoy live sport.

The report has the most in-depth answers of any in the charity’s 22-year history. It highlights that much more work needs to be done to give Disabled sports fans a better matchday experience.

Disabled fans in wheelchairs watch from the stands of a football ground

Cam Wood, an Aston Villa fan who spoke to the Daily Mirror about his experiences as a Disabled supporter, said: “Disabled fans like myself have worked so hard to keep themselves safe from the virus so to go back into a football ground full of people is a massive risk. It’s going to take some guts because these people have not been out in 18 months, let alone to a stadium full of people who they don’t even know.”

The survey received 1408 responses and it included several key findings:

  • 30% of respondents stated that there were sports or sporting venues that they felt unable to attend due to poor access for Disabled supporters
  • 25% of respondents said that ‘anxiety or lack of confidence’ was a barrier when attending live sport.
  • Following lengthy restrictions on attending live sport due to the pandemic, 73% of the supporters surveyed said they would want to attend a match ‘right away’ once permitted.
  • The top three Covid measures that fans want in place when returning were:
    • Hand sanitising stations
    • Hand washing facilities
    • Mask wearing (bar exemptions).

The report aims to receive greater feedback year on year, helping to drive change towards better access and inclusion for Disabled sports fans. Although the charity has carried out many specific surveys in the past, this is the most comprehensive survey ever, reviewing the matchday experience of Disabled fans. The survey is a first of its kind, with a strong focus on club-specific feedback that will help clubs target specific areas to improve their facilities and services.

The Chair of Level Playing Field Tony Taylor said: “This first Level Playing Field annual fan survey provides a great insight into the experiences of Disabled supporters as they attend live sport.

“We are grateful to the 1408 fans who took the time to share their experiences with us. It is our hope and expectation that their responses will serve to bring about improvements to services and facilities as clubs see their feedback and comments.

“There is clearly much that still needs to be done to ensure that Disabled fans have an equal matchday experience to non-Disabled fans. The fact that 30% of respondents said there was a sport or sports venue they felt unable to attend, due to poor access, highlights this inequality. Level Playing Field will continue to promote full access and inclusion for Disabled fans, and we expect that will be reflected in the results of our future fan surveys.”