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Premier League clubs criticised in disability access report

Disabled supporters attend a football match. Credit: PA

Premier League clubs could face heavy fines and even the prospect of points deductions if they fail to meet an August deadline to become compliant with disability access requirements.

A report by the Culture, Media and Sport select committee (CMS) says four Premier League clubs are likely to miss the deadline.

They also criticise a fifth club, West Ham, for allegedly reducing the provision for disabled supporters since taking over the Olympic Stadium.

In a damning report, they said some clubs are "prioritising finance over improving access" and cited the east London club for allegedly restricting access for disabled supporters in favour of more hospitality boxes.

In a statement, West Ham said the report is based on out-of-date information.

A general view of West Ham United's London Stadium. Credit: PA

The CMS select committee chairman Damian Collins said: "When we see examples of good practice at some clubs that are already providing disabled supporters with a good experience when they attend matches, it is especially disappointing that some of the rich clubs are not doing more.

"Sports fans with disabilities are not asking for a large number of expensive changes - only to have their needs taken into account in the way sports stadia are designed and operated.

"It is high time that sports clubs, especially for example those with plenty of resources as in football's Premier League, changed their mindset."

However the committee also expressed concern for the desire of the league to impose sanctions themselves.

Mr Collins added: "Given 20 years of comparative inactivity by the football leagues, we are not convinced that the Premier League would impose suitable penalties on clubs, even for failing to meet building regulations."

Every disabled supporter that has applied to attend a West Ham United match at London Stadium has been allocated one of our accessible seats.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee report references wheelchair user spaces located in Club London hospitality areas of the stadium which are 'flexible' spaces that can also - if unused - be occupied by non-wheelchair supporters. However, these spaces never have, and never will be, allocated to another fan at the expense of a disabled supporter.

West Ham United is fully committed to its supporters with accessibility needs and is proud to have more wheelchair user spaces than any other Premier League stadium, with 253 in total.

The overall quality of the provision means West Ham United lead the way amongst top-flight clubs and remain on course to be one of the first Premier League clubs to achieve all the requirements of the Accessible Stadia Guide.

– West Ham United statement
The Culture, Media and Sport select committee chairman Damian Collins. Credit: PA

The committee said they will support the Equality and Human Rights Commission in taking legal action against individual clubs and their governing body over "systematic" non-compliance.

The report also quoted Premier League executive director Bill Bush in stating that if league member clubs fail to comply with the Accessible Stadia Guide by 2017, a wide-range of sanctions - including heavy fines and points deductions - could be applied.

The clubs are working hard to enhance disabled fan access and facilities in their stadiums. The scale and scope of the commitment made by clubs in this area is unprecedented for a single sport or sector, and the timescale is ambitious. Following consultation with specialist architects extensive improvements are being undertaken and rapid progress is being made.

For the clubs which are working through those challenges cost is not the determining factor. Instead they are working through issues relating to planning, how to deal with new stadium development plans, how best to manage fan disruption or, in certain cases where they don't own their facility, having to work with third parties.

At the end of this month we will present to DCMS, DWP (Department for Work and Pensions), EHRC (Equality and Human Rights Commission) and the CMS select committee an interim report which details each club's progress ahead of a final report due in August.

It of course remains the case that it falls to the EHRC to form its own view as to whether the adjustments being made are reasonable, as required by legislation.

– Premier League statement