Top of the league clubs: Derby County, Wrexham, Tranmere Rovers, Egham Town; all have been named as examples of excellence in making their clubs truly welcoming of disabled supporters. You will note that none of these clubs are in the Premier League. In Sept 2015 the Premier League promised to make all clubs accessible to disabled people. The House of Commons Select Committee on Culture Media and Sport report published today states that it’s “very clear” that sports clubs, notably many of those with very considerable income and resources, have not done anywhere near enough for sports fans with disabilities in recent years, despite the increase in income many of those clubs have enjoyed.” Given the examples above I would say it is clearly a question of will rather than resources and Greg Clarke of the Football Association agrees, telling the committee “that for the Premier League the problem was not money”. Football is our national sport, beloved by so many of us, and it needs to rediscover its moral compass. If not on its own then with some help. Both the commons committee and the Minister for Sport have said they would support legal action against clubs that miss the August deadline and Bill Bush, executive director at the Premier League spoke of fines of up to £25,000. I would urge both the Premier League and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to use all means at their disposal to ensure that disabled supporters are no longer treated as second class citizens when they want to support their football team.
Chris’s letter to the Times: Football’s Failure
Watch Channel 4’s report: Are football stadia no go for disabled?
BBC Sport: Disabled access: Premier League clubs may face sanctions over lack of improvement
Just over two weeks before the Rio Paralympics began I wrote in The Times that “the Rio 2016 organising committee in Brazil has given a flagrant two-finger salute to the Paralympics. The Games will, sadly, be remembered for abject failure — save for the sensational performances of the athletes, no doubt, who will be forced to compete in adversity with venues closed and service levels slashed.” Was my prediction correct?
In Channel 4 studio
On air with Libby Clegg and Clare Balding
Presenting a medal to Ellie Simmonds
Presenting a medal to Oliver Hynd MBE
Mr Masazoe, Governor of Tokyo, met up with Chris and Philip Craven, Chair of the IPC, on a recent London visit. Mr Masazoe and his team were seeking advice on how to achieve a truly successful “barrier free” Paralympics. Chris was able to speak about the lessons he learnt as Director of Paralympic Integration at London 2012. Chris stressed the impact of the incredible “Gamesmaker” volunteers and the importance of having inclusion underpinning all planning and decision making.
Chris welcomes the Premier League statement, which promises that all clubs will comply with the Accessible Stadia Guide by August 2017. There has been a long campaign to improve stadium facilities for disabled supporters and increase the numbers of wheelchair spaces, for years substantially fewer at most clubs than the numbers recommended in official guidance.
On Monday, the government published a deeply critical report about disabled people’s experience in sports stadiums. This came after years of campaigning by various organisations and supporters groups and as Lord Faulkner’s Accessible Sport Grounds Bill is considered in Westminster. Chris has taken part in the debates calling on the football community to “rediscover their moral compass.”
There was widespread praise in the House of Lords for the move by the Premier League but Chris urged the government to “monitor closely” the progress being made up to 2017.
BBC, Premier League clubs to make changes for disabled fans.
The Guardian, Premier League pledges to improve stadium facilities for disabled fans.
Telegraph, Premier League face the threat of losing sponsors over clubs’ inadequate provision for disabled fans.
Mirror, Paralympic swimmer Lord Holmes urges Premier League clubs to provide more seats for disabled fans.
Chris delivered the key note opening speech to delegates at 2015 UKTI Global Sports Projects Conference. His combination of insights gathered as an elite athlete over the course of his long and successful career, coupled with the experiences gained in his key LOCOG role as the Director of Paralympic Integration for London2012, ensured he was the perfect key note speaker to open the event. Interwoven with Chris’s unique narrative style, drawn from his first-hand experiences, were key lessons for UK business leaders already involved, or contemplating seeking business opportunities in overseas markets related to Global Sports Projects. This enabled them to draw parallels between the client focused delivery of Major Event Organising Committee’s and the commercial focus of their delivery partners and suppliers to ensure a cohesive and coordinated approach, that together deliver the powerful and tangible positive effects experienced as a result of London 2012 and Glasgow 2014’s collective success. Chris provided the perfect ingredients to motivate, inspire and galvanise the UK business leaders present to ensure that the UK is doing all it can to capitalise on the opportunity to create a lasting business legacy in Global Sport Projects.
Chris knows, from his own personal experience, all about the opportunity that sport can provide for people and its unique power to transform lives and inspire others. The fact is that some groups, particularly women and girls, Asians, Muslims and disabled people, have disproportionately low rates of participation in sport – as players, spectators, volunteers, officials and employees. The Equality and Human Rights Commission receives money from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to promote inclusion in sport. This funding is allocated to grassroots initiatives administered through organisations like Premiership Rugby . Another partnership with the England & Wales Cricket Board is expected to be announced soon. The funds are also being used to improve access to stadia for disabled people. Discussions have been held with the Premier League and given the windfall the Premier League has just enjoyed, Chris believes “it would be scandalous if clubs don’t do more to improve access for disabled fans.”
Click here for Chris’s blog in full
Listen here to Chris discussing disabled access to football grounds on Radio 5 live
Click here to read a special report on disabled access to Premier League clubs in the Guardian
For the first time since participating in the Seoul Games in 1988, Chris travelled back to Korea to give the keynote speech at the 2014 Inclusive Sport and Society Forum. The Forum was organised by the Korean Paralympic Committee just ahead of the Incheon 2014 Asian Para Games and was attended by UN Special Advisor on Sport, Wilfried Lemke, and International Paralympic Committee President, Sir Philip Craven. Themes developed at the conference were the integration of disabled and non-disabled sports and social inclusion through sports.
Read more here