CAFE calls for disability and inclusion to be at the heart of FIFA reforms


The following statement was released on 18 November 2015 by CAFE Chairman David Bernstein and CAFE Managing Director Joyce Cook, addressed to Francois Carrard, Chair of the FIFA Reform Committee.


According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people in the world live with disability. In the years ahead, the numbers of disabled people are expected to increase still further with improvements to health and the simple fact that we are all living longer. Within this large population, many disabled people globally wish to be part of the football family as spectators, guests, coaches, players, administrators, volunteers and so on. But for this to happen, the game has to become more inclusive and accessible. Disabled people are limited only by the physical, sensory, societal and attitudinal barriers and negative stereotypes that still exclude them.


Disabled people constitute the largest minority group, yet the topic of access and inclusion is still only in its infancy within global football and it is largely missing from its anti-discrimination works and projects. FIFA has taken several steps towards improving stadium access for disabled spectators at its flagships events such as the FIFA World Cup and it supports a small number of NGOs specializing in disability sports participation and local projects.  However, there is still a great deal to be done before we can claim that football is truly welcoming and inclusive to all.


In considering FIFA Reform, it has been well documented that diverse and inclusive boards are smarter with their organizations more successful, efficient and inclusive as a direct result. As such, disabled people clearly have a critical role to play across the breadth of our game and at all levels. They must be empowered to take their rightful places as fans, guests, volunteers and employees but also as decision makers at the FIFA EXCO and its Committees so as to properly reflect and represent this largest of all minority groups.


This is a unique moment for football and its stakeholders and we can no longer wait for organic reform from within. We call on FIFA, as the game’s governing body, to grasp the opportunities that will ensure meaningful and lasting change. 


With this in mind, the Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFE) supports the submission: “Why reform must specify inclusion and investment” and its recommendations. Please see Appendix.


However, CAFE calls for still further and more searching reform as follows.  


Firstly, FIFA’s existing anti-discrimination policy should be revised to ensure that disability equality and access and inclusion are placed at the forefront of all future anti-discrimination and CSR policy and progress. But this pledge must go still further, to ensure the end to all forms of discrimination that still exist across football. Please see appendix.


Secondly, we call for the appointment of truly independent members (at least 30%) to the FIFA EXCO and with representation from all the key stakeholders. CAFE considers this aspect to be critical if we are to remove any risk of compromised decisions in the future, with independent EXCO members more freely able to challenge the status quo when needed. Independent members will also bring additional expertise, ideas and knowledge from other sectors to the table. This should include disability and inclusion expertise.


In making these changes, we must ensure a more diverse range of decision makers. FIFA cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of its forefathers with largely old white men or for that matter in the new order, old white women and men appointed to the top table. The women and men appointed to EXCO, must come from much more diverse backgrounds based on disability, ethnicity, gender and so on. Together, they must truly represent the whole of the modern game and its many diverse constituents.


Thirdly, FIFA must ensure that these governance reforms are similarly reflected within its Confederations, Member Associations and Clubs.


Football is at a cross roads, it has failed disabled people and other minorities at every level of the game and for too long.


In closing, the CAFE would be very pleased to meet to discuss how disability can be best tackled to ensure access and inclusion becomes an integral part of the whole game, based on our respected works and extensive expertise in this area.


We look forward to your reply and seek your reassurance that the FIFA Reform Committee will consider and support all the aforementioned reforms (as detailed in the attached Appendix). They are long overdue.



Yours sincerely


David Bernstein                                           Joyce Cook

CAFE Chairman                                          CAFE Managing Director



I. CAFE calls for an amendment to FIFA Statutes Article 3 as follows:   “Ensure diversity and inclusion across the game and stand against all forms of discrimination (including race, disability, gender, age, religion and sexual orientation).” 


CAFE calls for the appointment of disabled people as members of the FIFA EXCO and its decision-making bodies and committees to best represent this often forgotten yet largest minority group. This should safeguard the best interests of disabled people within football and the many disabled people who can still only aspire to take their rightful places as spectators, players, coaches, administrators, volunteers and indeed decision makers. 


II. CAFE supports the submission by Moya Dodd and Sarai Bareman: “Why reform must specify inclusion and investment” and its recommendations:  

• Inclusion in decision-making 

• Investment in the women’s game  


CAFE also calls on FIFA to: 

• Further develop disability football;

• To invest in resources and measures to ensure that football stadiums within the professional game are truly fit for purpose, accessible and welcoming to all;

• And to remove the barriers and stereotypes that prevent disabled people from taking their rightful place as administrators and decision makers.  

CAFE is certain that with disabled people at centre stage, diversity and inclusion will naturally become central while strengthening the integrity of the whole game.

About CAFE


The Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFE) was established in 2009 to improve access to football stadia across Europe using the special influence of football. To deliver this ambition, CAFE works with national associations, leagues, clubs, disabled fans, fans groups, NGOs and key stakeholders to ensure a more accessible and inclusive match and non-match day for disabled people across Europe. By raising awareness and sharing best practice solutions, CAFE aims to improve access and inclusion across the game to help ensure that disabled people can take their rightful places as fans, guests, volunteers, employees and as decision makers.