2012 has certainly been a year to remember here at CAFE.

CAFE was named as the official charity of UEFA EURO 2012, which was a huge honour and a fantastic opportunity for us to promote our works across Europe. UEFA kindly agreed to donate €3,000 to CAFE for every goal scored during the tournament, meaning that we celebrated each strike with great enthusiasm! When the final whistle was blown, a total of 76 goals had been scored and €228,000 was raised for CAFE to reinvest in improving accessibility in the region. Additionally, UEFA EURO 2012 held a charity auction for reserved match tickets, with all profits beyond face value also to be donated to the official tournament charity. Bids were received of up to ten times the value of the ticket, and once they had all gone an additional €175,000 had been raised to donate to CAFE.

All monies raised by UEFA for CAFE during the tournament and ticket auction are being reinvested in improving accessibility to football stadiums in the region as a UEFA EURO 2012 legacy project.

CAFE was also delighted to be appointed to deliver the UEFA Respect Inclusion – Football with No Limits project in Poland and Ukraine. Working with local partners in both countries, CAFE led the awareness project to promote accessibility and inclusion. We set up access advisory groups in Poland and Ukraine, assessed accessibility in each host city and provided local businesses with toolkits and information on how to improve accessibility. We also ran a dedicated website with lots of local access information that will remain live in legacy of the project. Local businesses and public places that were accessible for disabled people were given access-friendly stickers to promote this and to signpost disabled fans and their friends and families to inclusive venues around the host stadia. We also ran a Europe-wide competition to promote disability awareness and inclusion, with ten winners receiving the official matchball of UEFA EURO 2012 signed by UEFA President Michel Platini.

We also provided audio descriptive commentary for blind and partially sighted fans at each match. This ground-breaking project, which saw audio descriptive commentary introduced to both countries for the first time, became one of the most popular and successful aspects of the work we did. CAFE’s appointed specialists who had delivered this service at UEFA EURO 2008 helped us to train volunteer commentators in each host city to deliver the service in the stadiums. We held training seminars in Warsaw and Kiev where 50 enthusiastic volunteers attended. As the training progressed in the weeks leading up to the first match, we appointed two commentators for each host stadium. Audio descriptive commentary differs from generic commentary, in that it is much more focused on the atmosphere as opposed to a statistical analysis. The purpose of the service is to explain clearly to blind and partially sighted fans exactly what is happening in the stadium and on the pitch in as much detail as possible. We feel that one of our friends in Ukraine, Larysa Sayevich, hit the nail on the head when she said, “at the start of the seminar, I commented that listening to a football match was often like a black and white movie. By the end of it, I saw a rainbow”.

CAFE also provided advice and guidance to UEFA for both of its flagship club competition Finals – the UEFA Champions League in Munich and the UEFA Europa League in Bucharest. These events gave us a great opportunity to further develop access and inclusion, and we were able to meet with disabled fans in Germany and Romania, spreading the message of ‘Total Football, Total Access’. The UEFA Champions League final saw the stadium in Munich increase their permanent number of wheelchair user spaces by 100, whilst the UEFA Europa League final saw the largest ever gathering of disabled people at a public event alongside their peers in Romania. We are sure that you will agree; two great milestones that we look to build on in 2013.

Our Managing Director Joyce Cook also attended a number of high-profile events in 2012 to promote CAFE. Joyce spoke at the UEFA Safety and Security conference in Vienna to introduce ‘Access For All’ - the UEFA and CAFE Good Practice Guide to over 300 professionals from the qualified clubs, their police counterparts, stadium owners and managers, as well as UEFA member associations and governing bodies. Joyce also attended the International Stadium Business Design & Development Summit in Warsaw, where she advised the stadium community on how best to design and deliver accessible, inclusive and welcoming stadium matchday experiences, based upon the recommendations within ‘Access For All’. Additionally, Joyce was interviewed as a special guest at the Gala of Disabled People in Bucharest to celebrate the International Day of Disabled People; this was then broadcasted on national Romanian television.

Everyone at CAFE has been busy in 2012, as we have continued our core work including helping disabled supporters to set up their own fans groups across Europe. We end the year by welcoming a number of new members to the team. Maria Popielawska has joined us as our Project Coordinator in Poland and based in Warsaw, and Olena Zhyvaikina is our new Project Coordinator in Ukraine, who will be based in Kiev from January 2013. Additionally, Jess Sadler has been appointed as PA to the Managing Director and will work out of the Chester offices in the UK. Existing team members Elena Karpukhina and Mike Rice have also moved into new roles, with Elena becoming our Head of Development in Eastern Europe and Mike named as our Projects and Fan Liaison Manager.

The joint UEFA and CAFE Good Practice Guide to Creating an Accessible Stadium and Matchday Experience, 'Access For All', was launched at our European conference at Wembley Stadium in September 2011. This guide provides step-by-step guidance on creating an accessible stadium, whether new or existing, and an inclusive matchday experience. We were delighted to announce in 2012 that this guide will be available in 13 different languages, (English, French, Russian, German, Turkish, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Dutch, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian and Croatian). The guide is also available in an accessible version (in English). Please watch this space for the release of various language versions early in 2013.

It is safe to say that 2012 is a year that sports fans across the world will never forget, and it has certainly been a memorable one for us at CAFE. On behalf of the entire team we wish you the very best for the festive season, and look forward to achieving even more with your ongoing support in 2013!

A version of this article is also available in Polish.

Published 21/12/2012