In February 2015, CAFE met with Martine Maras, who is responsible for accessibility at Saint-Etienne’s Métropole authority. Martine shared her experience of her involvement in the renovation of the city’s stadium, Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, one of the UEFA EURO 2016 host venues.

During the stadium’s renovation, Saint-Etienne Métropole made improved access for disabled fans a priority. A global approach has been taken, incorporating accessible design into the stadium as well as raising disability awareness and etiquette through training and communication.

This approach has been taken with the support of an accessibility commission, consisting of city officials, technicians, local disability groups and consumer representatives. Their aim was to ensure accessibility for all, via the removal of physical, attitudinal, sensory and intellectual barriers, and by working on how the stadium is used within a universal design framework.

During renovation, the stadium was the subject of many construction site meetings with associations, including the disabled supporters association, in order to guarantee cooperation with the site’s project manager and to examine the evolution of accessibility for all disabled people at every stage.

The design is based upon understanding and observing usage, anticipating new life styles and technological evolution. It is a co-conception partnership of stakeholders, experts and concerned users.

A technical working group (GTT), stemming from the accessibility commission was given responsibility for monitoring the works. This working group established itself around a period of training led by a sociologist. The training looks at the notion of disability by exploring how the stadium can disable its users, whatever their disability. It encouraged a change of approach by focusing on what people can do rather than what they can’t.  

GTT carried out tests and evaluations of potential modifications to the stadium, and these were then presented and discussed with disabled fans. Disability associations were consulted at all stages (conception, realisation, delivery of stands and boxes) and were invited to visit the stadium at key moments.

Some of the changes achieved include the creation of accessible signage, which is large, uses coded colours and is clear; low level counters at refreshment kiosks; tactile flooring in relevant areas; and new accessible toilets.

There are also plans to install audio-visual equipment to make matchdays more accessible for partially sighted and blind fans, as well as deaf and hard of hearing fans. Additional disability awareness training has also been discussed.

During the 2011-12 season, each home match was preceded by a video about disability played on the big screens. One of the organisations involved in the video was Coeur Vert, a humanitarian group created in 2011 by Saint-Etienne’s Sports association with local disabled people’s groups.

In contemplation of the 2016 UEFA EUROs, a welcoming and assistance package for travelling disabled fans is being formulated. It will allow access for all disabled fans via different modes of travel, between the Fan Zone, the stadium, accommodation and places to eat and drink. The volunteers responsible for welcoming and accompanying fans will be given disability awareness training in order to include each and every person.

CAFE is glad to see positive steps being taken to make live football accessible for all fans, and we would like to thank Martine Maras for sharing her experiences in Saint-Etienne with us.

A version of this article is also available in French.

Published 04/06/2015