2014 proved to be another successful year for CAFE as we celebrate our 5th anniversary with further progress evident across Europe.

The year got off to a busy start with our second Week of Action – Total Football Total Access - taking place in Poland and Ukraine in the spring as a part of our ongoing UEFA EURO 2012 legacy project. The CAFE Week of Action has been highly successful in the region with many local clubs now taking part.

This season, the Week of Action ran from 5th – 13th April. The Ukrainian Premier League dedicated their 24th and 25th rounds of fixtures to the campaign, with pre-match ceremonies taking place before every match and a total of 21 pre-match ceremonies took place across Poland.

For the first time, CAFE presented a series of awards to mark the Week of Action. The 3 categories of awards recognise the dedication of clubs and individuals that help to improve the match day experience of disabled fans in Poland and Ukraine. The inaugural recipients for 2013-14 were:

Club / stadium award - Miedź Legnica (Poland) and NSC Olympiysky (Ukraine)

Club employee award – Dariusz Guzik and Piotr Kiciński (Poland) and Tatiana Glushchenko (Ukraine)

Disabled supporter group / association –  Klub Kibiców Niepełnosprawnych (Poland) and Virni Levy (Ukraine)

We were delighted to be able to recognise some of the examples of best practice taking place across the region and wish to congratulate the awards recipients for their on-going commitment to access and inclusion.

CAFE was pleased to be invited to join the Polish FA’s stewards training programme working group, with disability awareness videos created to advice stewards and club personnel in using best practice in communicating with disabled fans. CAFE coordinated the production of these videos with the support of local disabled fans that kindly volunteered their time to take part.

CAFE has also appointed a number of Ambassadors to help promote our message ‘Total Football, Total Access’ with former star Jarosław Bieniuk now working alongside CAFE Ambassador, Michał Listkiewicz in Poland. And Ukrainian players Oleksandr Shovkovskiy, Dmytro Chygrynskiy, Andriy Pyatov and Ihor Lytovka also joined the CAFE team of Ambassadors. With 200 international appearances between them, they will each assist us greatly in promoting our work. CAFE’s works have also been recognised by the Ukrainian Professional Football League, with whom we signed a memorandum of cooperation, committing to work closely together on access and disability-related issues.

CAFE also worked with UEFA and SL Benfica to ensure improvements to the disabled fans seating areas for the UEFA Champions League Final in May. These stadium improvements have left a lasting legacy at the club. With the support of our NGO partner, INR and CAFE’s newly appointed Projects and Research Manager, Joanna Deagle, 2015 should see still further developments for local disabled fans across Portugal. 

In early June, we moved to our new head offices in London and CAFE is now based just a kick of a football away from the iconic Wembley Stadium, a fitting location for an organisation working at the heart of European football. Later in the year, our new headquarters was officially opened by the UK Minister for Sport and Equalities, Helen Grant MP, with many senior representatives and partners in attendance.

2014 also saw CAFE’s works extend beyond Europe and we were pleased to work in collaboration with FIFA to deliver a CSR project at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Working with our local implementing partner Urece, we introduced a dedicated audio-descriptive commentary for partially sighted and blind fans to Brazilian football for the first time. The project trained local media students to deliver the service which was available at every match played in Belo Horizonte, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The project leaves behind a lasting legacy and has received high praise from many quarters including the many disabled fans who can now enjoy live matches alongside their peers. 

2014 has seen the launch of new disabled supporters associations across Europe, most notably at Dynamo Kiev and GKS Katowice. We would like to congratulate the disabled fans involved in setting up new DSA’s this year.

In the autumn, we were proud to see our Managing Director, Joyce Cook graduate from the UEFA Women in Football Leadership Programme. Joyce, who is also a Director of Women in Football in the UK, said, “I feel extraordinarily privileged to be a UEFA WFLP graduate. UEFA has shown me that they value women and are serious about change. Thank you”.

And the year ends on a high note with several great new people joining the CAFE team, including our new Board member, David Davies OBE and Joanna Deagle, who joins as our Project and Research Manager. Elena Karpukhina has also recently been promoted to European Head of Development moving from Kiev to the UK to take up her new role.

Amidst the successes of 2014, we mourned the loss of two highly valued members of our expert Advisory Group, in March. Gary Deards was the Vice-Chair of our sister charity in England and Wales, Level Playing Field and Marcin Kornak, President of Never Again in Poland. Both were passionate about access inclusion for disabled people and remained dedicated to combating discrimination and inequality throughout their lives. We miss them but won’t forget them.

CAFE has attended a number of UEFA events and conferences this year, including the President’s meeting with Fans Groups in March and the UEFA Respect Diversity conference in Rome in September. We rounded up the year with Joyce Cook and Liz Chick representing CAFE at the Dutch FA, KNVB 125 year celebrations that included a conference dedicated to ‘Breaking the Glass Celling’ for minorities in football co-hosted by the KNVB, UEFA and FARE.

We would like to say a special thank you to UEFA and its partners for their continued support and commitment to CAFE’s works to improve over the past twelve months.

We close the year with plans for our second CAFE Conference in autumn 2015 now underway and with our attention turning towards France ahead of UEFA EURO 2016 as we commence the official UEFA EURO 2016 project, Respect Access for All. We ask you to join us in welcoming our two newest members of the CAFE team, Malik Badsi and David Moussy as local CAFE Project Coordinators in France.

We were also delighted to report this week the creation of MIVA United - a national disabled supporters association representing all disabled fans across the Netherlands. MIVA United has been founded by representatives of two of the longest established DSA's in the Netherlands - the Rollyside at FC Groningen and Rollerside at Vitesse Arnhem. CAFE hosted the inaugural meeting of the group in December 2013 in Amsterdam and this announcement is a wonderful way to end the year.

2015 is shaping up to be another exciting year for CAFE and we look forward to working with our partners and stakeholders as we strive together for Total Football Total Access.

Finally, the CAFE team would like to warmly thank everybody who has helped to make 2014 such a memorable year. Your unwavering support and on-going friendship is critical to our works.  Together we can help to improve the lives of many disabled people around Europe through football and its fans.

A version of this article is also available in Ukrainian, Russian, Portuguese, French and Polish.

Published 18/12/2014