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14 Aug 2022

UEFA criticised for ‘disregarding’ views of disabled fans in Champions League final review

UEFA criticised for ‘disregarding’ views of disabled fans in Champions League final review

Disabled supporters continue to be “an afterthought” for UEFA, a campaign group has said.

Disabled supporters continue to be “an afterthought” for UEFA, a campaign group has said.

Level Playing Field, a disability access charity, says the voice of disabled fans at the Champions League final in Paris in May is not represented on the review panel assessing the chaos surrounding that match which was announced by European football’s governing body last week.

LPF has also raised concerns that the review’s terms of reference do not adequately cover questions relevant to disabled supporters, having earlier highlighted what it said was the misuse of wheelchair user spaces at the Stade de France to the benefit of media and corporate guests.

“On Friday, July 1, 2022, UEFA and (review chair) Dr (Tiago Brandao) Rodrigues announced his panel and list of experts that he and the panel will be speaking to. Once again, disability seems to have been forgotten or, at worst, disregarded,” an LPF statement said.

“Once again, UEFA proudly showcased their #EqualGame campaign – sadly we feel this should have been qualified with the term ‘unless you are a disabled fan’.

“Disabled sports fans are sick and tired of their matchday experience being an afterthought and grossly under-prioritised.

“Watching football is a national pastime for all, and there have to be clear obligations in place to prevent discrimination and promote inclusion. Regrettably, LPF is aware of disability discrimination taking place with a frequency just as it did at the Champions League final.”

LPF said disabled supporters had been “petrified and feared for their own wellbeing and safety whilst being corralled in a dangerous manner” in the build-up to the match between Premier League outfit Liverpool and Spanish side Real Madrid on May 28.

“Level Playing Field is demanding real change; it is time for accountability and positive action and governments, governing bodies, clubs and other stakeholders can no longer simply pay lip services to the human rights of disabled supporters.”

UEFA has been contacted for a response to LPF’s statement.

The policing and ticketing operations surrounding the Champions League final have been heavily criticised. France’s interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, apologised at a senate hearing for the “disproportionate” use of tear gas towards fans.

Policing and security experts Frank Paauw and Kenny Scott were announced as lead experts on Dr Rodrigues’ panel last week, while the Football Supporters’ Association chief executive Kevin Miles is among a number of individuals who will be called upon as a consultant during the process.

Preliminary findings from the review are set to be published at the end of September, UEFA said, with the final report scheduled for November.

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