Constitution

The Disability Advisory Group Representing Premier League Club Disability Supporter Associations

William Bush, Premier League Executive Director


Context

Professional football clubs and leagues have a long history of making provision for disabled people to attend football matches. This goodwill is reflected across the clubs as they seek to provide a positive and welcoming experience for disabled fans despite the challenges of the varying stadium environments and the inevitable pressures of a matchday. In recent years, provision for disabled supporters has become more professionalised and defined but wherever possible retaining the traditional warmth in the human relationships which make the system work.

 

The Premier League is fully committed to meeting the requirements of the Equality Act 2010, a commitment expressed in a number of the Premier League’s own Rules. However, it is important to recognise that legal obligations are not generally copied into our Rule Book – the law of the land is there to be observed and respected without being duplicated in Premier League Rules. The framework for meeting those requirements is provided by the Premier League Equality Standard.

 

The Premier League regularly liaises with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) over the legal obligations that arise from the Equality Act, most recently over our Clubs’ commitment to meet, where reasonably possible, the terms of the Accessible Stadia Guide (ASG) by August 2017. This commitment led directly to a series of major investments in facilities for disabled people across all Premier League grounds. The programme continues and is being monitored by the Premier League Board.

 

Structured Dialogue with Fans

The ASG exercise prompted focused and close discussion between individual clubs and their disabled supporters, building on the generally strong relationships that already existed. The EHRC have asked that consideration be given to maintaining this more structured approach to liaison with disabled supporters. The Premier League supports this ambition and also wishes to make effective communication with disabled supporters part of its own wider programme of sustaining structured dialogue with fans of Premier League clubs. We have undertaken to fan groups, notably the Football Supporters Federation, Supporters Direct, Level Playing Field (the independent national group for disabled sports fans), football’s LGBT groups and others, that we will meet with them on a regular basis to discuss relevant matters. We do not set the agenda for these meetings nor limit the topics that the fan groups wish to raise, providing they are relevant and of interest to more than one club. Should a fan group at a particular club wish to raise a specific matter we offer bilateral meetings arranged on an ad hoc basis.

 

Current Arrangements for Consultation on Disability Matters

To meet their obligations and ambitions in this area, all Premier League clubs have Disability Access Officers (required by our Rules); many also have Disability Liaison Officers. Each of these has their own club role, determined and directed by the club as their employer, and reports regularly to senior management/the board. The roles generally involve communication with disabled fans and formal and/or informal consultation on topical matters. DAOs and DLOs are also often engaged in dealing with complaints from individual disabled fans and seek to resolve them at club level if at all possible. The Premier League works with DAOs and DLOs on issues of league-wide relevance and also in promoting best practice. Our Supporter Relations team organises regular meetings of DAOs and DLOs and has frequent contact with Level Playing Field. The Premier League has a good relationship with Level Playing Field and will continue to consult them on all relevant matters. However, many PL clubs have their own disabled supporter associations (DSAs) and we believe that we should also listen to their distinctive voice on league-wide matters that affect them.


Premier League Rules

There are several relevant Premier League Rules which give expression to some of our policies that affect disabled fans. These include:

 

Rule

J1.5      (each club shall employ and provide written terms of reference to) one or more disability access officer(s), whose roles and responsibilities are set out in Rule R.4.

 

J4 Each Club shall adopt and each Club, Manager, Official, Player and Academy Player shall observe, comply with and act in accordance with the Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Policy set out in Appendix 2 to these Rules.

 

K34       Each Club shall provide sufficient and adequate facilities for disabled supporters.

 

R2 Each Club shall devise, document and publish: (a) a policy (or policies) with regard to ticketing, merchandise and relations with its supporters, season ticket holders and others having an interest in the activities of the Club (together in this Section of these Rules referred to as “Stakeholders”); and (b) a disability access statement. A copy of all such documents must be provided to the League before the start of the Season.

 

R3        A Club’s policy with regard to its Stakeholders should:

R.3.1.     provide for consultation with them on a structured and regular basis through forums, questionnaires and focus groups and by the publication of current policies on major issues in an easily digested format; and

R.3.2.     promote supporter and community liaison and provide for the establishment of liaison structures where none exist.

 

R4        R.4. Each Club shall employ one or more appropriately senior Official(s) whose responsibilities shall include:

R.4.1.     ensuring the provision by the Club of safe, inclusive, accessible facilities and services for disabled supporters; and

R.4.2.     liaising regularly with the Club’s management (including on issues related to disability access).

 

R6        A Club’s ticketing policy should:

R.6.6. give details of the availability of seating for disabled spectators and their carers and the pricing policy in relation thereto;

 

R9        Unless otherwise agreed by the Board or between the Clubs, and subject to Rule R.10, at each League Match, the Home Club shall make available to the Visiting Club:

R.9.2. tickets for a minimum of 10 per cent. of the Home Club’s disabled spectator

accommodation.

 

Appendix 2: Inclusion and Anti-Discrimination Policy:

 

1.        The Premier League and Clubs, to achieve their commitment to inclusion and to removing discrimination, whether by reason of age, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability, diversity, gender reassignment or sex, will act as follows:

·       be an equal opportunities employer;

·       encourage and promote similar commitment from every other organisation or individual acting within the game;

·       not tolerate discriminatory behaviour, whether physical or verbal, and take appropriate disciplinary or other action; and

·       support training and awareness raising activities.


2.        Each Club shall:

·       hold the Preliminary Level of the Equality Standard by 30 June 2016 for Clubs in Membership in Season 2015/16 or 31 December in the Season following its promotion from The Football League for any other club; and

·       hold the Advanced Level of the Equality Standard by the end of 31 December in the Season two years after the obtaining of the Preliminary Level.

 

“Equality Standard” is the award and relevant criteria and standards agreed by Clubs from time to time and as published by the Board.

 

The Terms of Reference for the Disability Advisory Group (DAG) in Engaging with the Premier League

In light of the above, the Premier League’s Supporter Relations team has therefore asked David Butler, the chair of Watford Enables and an experienced campaigner in this area, to bring together representatives of Premier League DSAs to form a consultative forum focusing on the experience of being a disabled fan of a Premier League club. Its general purpose would be to offer practical common-sense guidance, suggestions and opinion in:

 

·         Raising relevant matters and advising on issues relating to access and inclusion for disabled fans;


·         Commenting on best practice with regard to implementation of the requirements of the Accessible Stadia Guidelines;


·         Commenting on drafts of new or amended relevant guidance being offered to clubs by the Premier League’s Supporter Relations team on disability matters;


·         Considering and responding to any other reports, documents and information as requested by the PL; and


·         Engaging with the Independent Football Ombudsman on his adjudications on those complaints involving disability concerns which have wider implications.

 

The DAG should regard itself as independent, seeking to represent the views of their members. The Premier League would therefore not seek to prescribe the group’s constitution, other than to say that to carry weight it should be as representative, accountable and open as possible.


The DAG should be free to adopt its own positions on matters of policy and practice that affect them and their members.

 

Once operational, the Premier League would seek to regularly consult the DAG on topical and relevant matters as part of our commitment to engage in structured dialogue with fans. We would suggest that it meets at least once a year with the Premier League’s Supporter Relations team and other staff and be available for conference calls and/or email discussions at other times.


Premier League staff will support the holding of meetings and reasonable costs will be met.