As we approach the end of the year, we look back over 2020 and some of our biggest news stories from the past twelve months.

2020 has posed unique challenges, circumstances and situations for all of us, and the year will undoubtedly be remembered for the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the entire world. In a year that had so many sporting events to look forward to, including the largest and most diverse UEFA EURO to date, the pandemic resulted in many tournaments and competitions being postponed or cancelled, or going ahead without supporters in attendance.

At CAFE, we were fortunate enough to be able to host some events and meetings prior to the pandemic. In February, the first tri-national DAO exchange meeting was held in Manchester. Disability Access Officers from Germany, Russia and the UK came together along with other key stakeholders and organisations within football to share and develop ideas.

A series of group discussions took place, looking at how DAOs can help their clubs to overcome attitudinal barriers faced by disabled fans, how to attract more disabled fans to the stadium and manage relationships with them, and the wider inclusion of differently disabled fans.

February also saw the launch of the #MyMatchday series, inviting disabled fans to share their experiences of attending live matches and the impact it has on their lives.

The interviews consider how each fan became a football supporter, their idols and favourite memories, and what their matchday routine usually consists of. They also explore any feelings, doubts or concerns that each fan may have had before attending a live match, and what their message would be to anyone who hasn’t yet experienced live football. As the year went on, we were also able to ask fans about how the pandemic was affecting their matchday routines and everyday lives.

As we entered March, Covid-19 was beginning to spread across the world and plans for our largest CAFE Week of Action to date were largely curtailed. Clubs, leagues and national associations who had planned to celebrate #TotalAccess at a matchday saw their activities cancelled, whilst many disabled fans and DSAs, who were able to apply for CAFE Week of Action grants for the first time, also had to postpone events.

One club who were able to host their celebration as planned was Red Bull Salzburg, who invited disabled fans to join the players as they entered the field ahead of their match with Sturm Graz. The activity created memories that will last a lifetime for each of the disabled fans involved, and also provided great exposure to demonstrate the club’s commitment to inclusion.

We also kicked off the CAFE Week of Action with the launch of an animated video celebrating ten years of partnership with UEFA. The video outlines CAFE and UEFA's shared commitment to turning football into a game that is accessible, inclusive and welcoming for all, and conveys a powerful message that #TotalAccess doesn't just mean more disabled fans being able to attend matches, but that they can also enjoy a quality experience similar to that of their fellow fans inside the stadium.

In April, we launched our research project for non-visibly disabled people and people with long term health conditions. CAFE established a working group with experts and NGOs working in the field, and published a survey to find out more about beneficial matchday services and facilities, common barriers faced and appropriate measures that can be implemented to become more inclusive.

A summary report was published in December on International Day of Disabled People, with 277 people from 21 countries, representing 70 football clubs, taking part. As part of the report, a series of key recommendations were published and we hope that this ground-breaking piece of research will lead to a more inclusive and welcoming matchday experience for all.

As the CAFE Head Office was forced to close due to ongoing restrictions, the team continued to work remotely and in June we published an information guide for national associations planning to apply for UEFA HatTrick FSR funding, for projects related to improved access and inclusion.

CAFE is keen to assist national associations who wish to develop long-term accessibility strategies and improve access and inclusion within their national football framework. The information pack contains a series of suggested activities and projects that national associations can deliver, including internal policies and procedures, taking a lead on projects across their domestic game and projects around improving accessibility at live matches and competitions.

To supplement the information pack, CAFE also published case studies from two past UEFA HatTrick FSR applicants to show how their projects have helped to improve access and inclusion across the game.

In Russia, funding was used to develop a stadium access appraisal training programme. This has meant that local expertise is now available to advise on how to make stadiums more accessible and welcoming for disabled supporters.

In San Marino, the national association delivered a project to improve the matchday experience at the country's national stadium. In addition to accessible renovations, they also implemented an audio-descriptive commentary service to enable more disabled fans to attend live matches.

In June we also began to explore the impact that Covid-19 was having on disabled fans, and launched a questionnaire as part of a wider research project. The impact report was published in September, alongside a guidance note on Planning for a Return to Stadia.

Over 400 people took part in the questionnaire, which highlighted that disabled people were concerned that they would not be included in the preparations for the return to live matches. 47% of respondents said that they had concerns about returning to live matches, with 15% stating that they would not return until a fully-tested vaccination had been made available.

More information about the impact report, guidance note and general information regarding sport and the pandemic can be found in our Covid-19 website section.

Our works in promoting the availability of audio-descriptive commentary (ADC) continued during 2020, and in the summer we published a case study with AC Milan on how they implemented the service at their stadium.

ADC is an inclusive service that supports partially sighted and blind fans in enjoying an inclusive matchday experience. It ensures that the listener has a complete understanding of the match he or she is attending, and is able to more fully enjoy the matchday experience in real time alongside their fellow fans.

AC Milan commissioned CAFE and our expert ADC Network to deliver our training package, and the case study outlines how the club took the decision to implement ADC and how the training took place, right through to implementing the service and promoting its availability amongst local partially sighted and blind fans.

We were also able to publish a guidance note on accessible ticketing processes in August, which included 15 steps on how to create an inclusive service for all disabled fans. This guidance note aims to support event hosts in ensuring disabled people can enjoy a hassle-free purchasing experience, that in turn encourages disabled customers to return again in the future.

In September, we worked with a number of organisations and clubs to celebrate World Alzheimer’s Day. Studies have found that 2 out of 3 people globally have little or no understanding of Alzheimer's, and the way that it can affect people. Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life.

Everton in the Community told us about their Pass on the Memories programme, and the impact it has had on over 750 people living with Alzheimer's and dementia as well as their carers and companions. Director of Health and Sport Michael Salla told us how the project uses the history of the club and the city to evoke memories and stimulate conversation, and how they have continued to support participants during the pandemic.

Hamburg SV also told us about their memory box project, using memorabilia, photos and soundtracks from the club's past to support people with Alzheimer's and dementia in sharing their memories. Project participants have the opportunity to discuss experiences as football fans, as well as memories from their day-to-day lives induced by the contents of the memory boxes.

In November 2020, we were delighted to launch our new brand, logo and visual identity following months of consultation with disabled fans, DAOs, UEFA and other partners.

Our new strapline represents our key areas of focus, highlighting that everything we do and work towards is to support disabled people in enjoying live sport alongside their fellow fans in an accessible and inclusive environment.

We also published an updated mission, emphasising our approach in removing the barriers that can prevent disabled people from taking their rightful places within the sporting sector and the wider society.

As we approached the end of the year, CAFE worked with our friends at the Football for All Leadership Programme to support a series of online webinars and talks on a number of important topics. Over 635 people tuned in to the webinar series, from 55 different countries across 5 continents, as they heard from 38 experts from NGOs, charities, governing bodies, football clubs, football foundations, former players and Paralympic athletes.

Each of the talks are available to watch on-demand now via the CAFE website.

We also hosted our own webinar on the topic of disability hate crime and incidents. The event highlighted examples of disability hate crime and incidents within a sporting context, discuss the impact disability abuse can have on disabled fans, and explore what can be done to help prevent future cases.

Dr Miro Griffiths, a disabled activist and academic researching disabled people's experiences of activism, social movements, and disability politics, was joined by the Fare Network Head of Policy - Global Monitoring and Human Rights, Pavel Klymenko, in sharing their experiences in identifying instances of hate crime and discrimination.

Our work across a number of countries has continued during 2020. In Spain, we launched the largest national survey of disabled fans to date and published a summary report in September. The research found that there is a strong desire amongst disabled Spanish people to attend live matches, and 80% of respondents stated that football matches should be for everyone, including disabled people.

We have since launched a similar research project in Greece, and hope to publish detailed findings in the new year. The Greek survey will remain open until 1 February, and we hope many disabled Greek fans will take part.

Our works also spread outside of Europe in December, as CAFE joined with River sin Barreras to host an online accessibility workshop in Argentina. The two-day event included a number of discussions and sessions on how clubs and stadiums in Argentina can improve the experience for disabled supporters. Participants also had the opportunity to ask any questions that they may have about the topic.

We end the year with hugely positive news, as our proposal to deliver an Erasmus+ project entitled ‘Good Governance Needs Access and Inclusion’ has been accepted.

The project will last for three years, starting in January 2021 and running until December 2023, and we will be working alongside national associations and leagues in Belgium (KBVB and Pro League), France (FFF and LFP) and Germany (DFB and DFL), as well national disabled supporters associations from each country (Inter, FFSFH and BBAG respectively), and Universidade Europeia - Portugal (ENSILIS).

Together, we will work towards good governance in sport through ensuring disabled fan feedback is integrated into national strategies to improve access and inclusion in football. A range of project activities have been agreed upon, including workshops with national associations, leagues and NDSAs, surveys of disabled fans, and the development of national access strategies.

Whilst it has not been the year many of us had hoped for, there are some great highlights we can look back fondly on and help us towards a more accessible, inclusive and welcoming future for all.

CAFE remains as committed as ever to ensuring disabled people can take their rightful places across the sporting sector, and we will continue to work towards our goal of #TotalAccess. The CAFE Week of Action will return again in March 2021, and we hope that you will be able to join us in celebrating disabled people and the important roles that they can play within sport and the wider society.

We also have a number of exciting webinars and online events planned for 2021, and will continue to support partners and stakeholders in the return to stadiums. We hope that disabled fans across the globe can soon support their teams from inside the stadiums again in the near future, in a safe and accessible environment.

The CAFE office is now closed for the festive period, and we will return in early January. We would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who has worked with us during this difficult year, and wish you the very best for the holidays.

Published 23/12/2020