CAFE has enjoyed a landmark year in 2017, as our works have developed and a number of key projects have been undertaken. As we approach the end of the year, we look back on some of our biggest news stories of 2017.


UEFA and CAFE publishes Disability Access Officer Handbook

One of our major successes of the year was the launch of the UEFA and CAFE Disability Access Officer (DAO) Handbook.

Released in September, the handbook outlines a number of the key responsibilities that a DAO should undertake in order to improve access and inclusion at their club. It provides useful tips and case study examples of existing DAOs from across the UEFA region, which illustrate the scope of the role and the potential impact it can have in ensuring an equal game. 

This document is part of CAFE’s continued work in implementing Article 35bis of the UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play regulations, requiring clubs to appoint a dedicated Disability Access Officer.

The Handbook is available to download here, and is a must-read for National Associations, clubs, DAOs and disabled fans alike. A huge thank you to UEFA for their tremendous continued support and commitment to our topic.


Promoting access and inclusion in Russia ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup

With the 2018 FIFA World Cup fast approaching, CAFE has worked throughout the year to ensure that disabled fans attending live matches in Russia can enjoy an inclusive and welcoming experience.

CAFE has worked with FIFA to establish our Russian Accessibility Working Group (AWG). This group is made up of disability NGOs and key stakeholders in Russia, sharing their experiences and knowledge and cross-promoting new activities and initiatives.

CAFE also supported the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup this summer in Russia. We published a Spectators Accessibility Guide for each host city, with important access information about the stadiums, public transport, airports and matchday services. CAFE also took part in a media tour of the Kazan Arena, highlighting the accessible facilities and services available at the stadium.

We are already witnessing huge improvements in Russia, with increased awareness around access and inclusion and a far greater number of disabled fans attending live matches. For the recent Russia vs Argentina match at the Luzhniki Stadium – the host venue of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final – over 1200 disabled people applied for tickets. 580 disabled people and their companions attended the game, which is a significant rise on previous fixtures.


CAFE Week of Action – Total Football Total Access

This year’s CAFE Week of Action took place on 4-12 March 2017, with a record 20 countries taking part.

For the first time, we were also joined by Max Access – the official mascot of the CAFE Week of Action. Max is a young partially sighted fan and helped us to promote activities taking place under the umbrella of Total Football Total Access.

The CAFE Week of Action was launched with a pre-match ceremony hosted by FC Barcelona. Young disabled fans were joined on the pitch by Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and the rest of the Barcelona team for a joint photograph, with a CAFE Week of Action banner at the front. The initiative was also explained to the 90,000-strong capacity crowd and accompanied by CAFE Week of Action graphics on the stadium screens.

In addition, CAFE hosted a disability workshop in association with the Malta FA, including a session on disability inclusion and etiquette and a number of stadium appraisals.

Other countries to take part included Armenia, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cyprus, England, Estonia, France, FYR Macedonia, Germany, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Switzerland, Ukraine and Wales, with further activities taking place at other clubs in Spain and a CAFE Week of Action celebration held in Canada.

This year’s CAFE Week of Action was the largest to date, and we look forward to celebrating Total Football Total Access in even more countries next year. The CAFE Week of Action 2018 takes place 3-11 March, and we invite you to get involved!

Supporting UEFA’s flagship tournament Finals in Stockholm and Cardiff

As in previous years, CAFE has worked closely with our partners UEFA on access at their Finals this year.

CAFE produced disabled spectators accessibility guides for the UEFA Champions League Final in Cardiff and the UEFA Europa League Final in Stockholm, and advised on access improvements at both venues in the build-up to the matches.

Furthermore, CAFE also advised on access around the UEFA Super Cup 2017 in Skopje where the experience of disabled fans was greatly improved.

CAFE enjoys a very strong relationship with UEFA, and we will again be advising on the 2018 flagship Finals – in Kyiv, Lyon and Tallinn. CAFE’s works in this area have also expanded, and for the first time we will be producing a Disabled Spectators Accessibility Guide for the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final.


Empowering disabled fans across Europe

One of CAFE’s key aims is to support the empowerment of disabled people across Europe through the unique power of football.

One of the ways we do this is by facilitating the creation and development of disabled supporters groups or associations (DSAs). These user-led, pan-disability groups are then able to represent themselves and their fellow disabled supporters, and work closely with their clubs and national associations on access improvements.

To further support this, CAFE has created a DSA information pack with case studies and practical advice on how to develop such a group.

We also invite disabled fans to share their matchday experiences with us and other disabled fans, and have developed a matchday feedback questionnaire to assist with this. The matchday feedback questionnaire also enables fans to leave more detailed feedback on their experiences.

This feedback is not only helpful to CAFE, but also to UEFA, our partners and to other disabled fans planning to attend a match at that stadium.

Early next year we plan to launch our new ‘Share Your Sightlines’ campaign, encouraging disabled fans to post pictures of what they see at live matches both at home and away. Further information will be posted on in the near future.

Welcoming Esther and Jochen to the CAFE team

We were delighted to welcome two new members to the CAFE team during 2017.

Esther Jones Russell joined us back in February as our Eastern European Development Officer. Esther is fluent in Russian and Czech, and has helped to expand our works in the region. Esther is also frequently liaising with our contacts in Russia and supporting our preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and has quickly become a valuable member of the team.

Jochen Kemmer became our new Project Manager in July, working primarily on developing the Disability Access Officer role. In his short time with CAFE so far, Jochen has met with many national associations to introduce the DAO position and promote the advantages of identifying a dedicated point of contact for disabled fans. Jochen speaks six different languages and has previously worked for both sports federations and disability organisations, bringing great experience to the team.

Both Esther and Jochen have added to our small but passionate team, and have helped us to expand our works across Europe. They have both become valued assets and we are pleased to have them both on board!


Looking ahead to 2018 – another historic year for CAFE

With many huge strides taken this year, we can’t wait to get started again in 2018. Next year will be a very busy one for the CAFE team and for football as a whole, with the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicking off in June.

We will also be continuing to work with our partners at UEFA to expand the Disability Access Officer role, producing disabled spectators guides for the UEFA Champions League, Women’s Champions League and Europa League Finals, and preparing for the largest UEFA EUROs ever, taking place in 2020.

We also have some very exciting announcements coming up in the New Year, including an expansion of our works around audio-descriptive commentary and information about our third European conference – Total Football Total Access.

We plan to launch our disabled fans survey report in January, and CAFE will also be continuing to support National Associations in increasing employment opportunities for disabled people within football.

The CAFE offices will be closing at 12.00 GMT (13.00 CET) on Friday 22 December. We will be reopening on 2 January 2018.

To all of our friends, networks and stakeholders, we wish you the very best for the festive period and a happy new year!

A version of this article is available in Ukrainian, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, French, German and Spanish.

Published 15/12/2017