Virgin Media and disability charity Scope are teaming up to highlight disability discrimination in football grounds at Southampton’s game against Manchester United next week.
New research published today shows that disabled football fans feel excluded from live games. Eight in ten who attend football stadiums across the UK say they have experienced some form of discrimination or other issues resulting from their disability.
As a result, the majority (62%) of these disabled fans said these experiences had stopped them from going to a live match again.
To highlight the issue and to put disabled fans at the heart of the game, Southampton will wear a special Scope-branded shirt for their home match against Manchester United FC on Wednesday 17 May.
Virgin Media, the official shirt sponsor of Southampton FC, is removing its logo from the club’s strip to support its charity partner, Scope, in order to get behind disabled football fans.
It forms part of the company’s partnership with the charity to help transform the lives of disabled people.
Side-lined in the stands
Today’s survey reveals disabled football fans feel unwelcome in the terraces because of the reception they receive from some non-disabled fans.
The findings show that nearly 40% of disabled supporters who go to matches say they have experienced negative attitudes from other fans and 29% said they had been victim of verbal abuse.
Almost two-thirds (62%) of disabled football fans think the football industry needs to do more to prevent this type of discrimination towards disabled people.
This is also backed by a separate poll of non-disabled fans who go to matches, where more than half (52%) think more should be done to prevent discrimination towards disabled people at football matches.
Disabled fans want a better experience
The poll has also found that football clubs could do more to improve the experiences disabled fans have at live games.
Less than half of disabled fans (43%) said their club had staff who are well trained in disabled fans’ needs, while only 42% said their club had a zero-tolerance statement on abuse, for example, which may cover the use of negative language.
More than a third (38%) of disabled fans who go to matches said a lack of appropriate facilities at other stadiums stop them from going to an away game.
More than half of non-disabled football fans think more should be done to make attending football matches more accessible for disabled fans.
Football is for everyone
Virgin Media and Scope are calling on fans, clubs and governing bodies to help improve the experiences of disabled fans at grounds across the UK and deliver everyday equality for disabled people.
Scope’s Chief Executive, Mark Atkinson, said: “This new research should serve as a wakeup call to all football clubs and fans.
“Football is our national game and has the ability to bring people together. We know that large numbers of fans want everyday equality and that means an inclusive game where discrimination of any kind isn’t tolerated.
“Disabled fans shouldn’t feel forced out of the stadium.”
“The rest of the football industry now needs to work together and kick disability discrimination out of the game.”
Brigitte Trafford of Virgin Media commented: “All football should be enjoyed by all fans, plain and simple.
“Fans are the heart of football and that means disabled fans too.
“It’s time for change. In football and society, disability discrimination can and should be a thing of the past.”
Credit: Virgin Media is donating its sponsorship of Southampton FC to Scope for the Saints vs Manchester United game on Wednesday 17th May. Virgin Media has all the football with Sky Sports and BT Sports on its platform.