As a long-time collaborator on accessibility issues for the 2018 FIFA World CupTM, CAFE is proud to look back on the most accessible and inclusive FIFA World Cup to date.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup was held in 12 venues across 11 Russian cities, from Kaliningrad to Ekaterinburg via Moscow, St Petersburg and others.

Ahead of the tournament’s start, FIFA and CAFE co-published the Spectator’s Accessibility Guide. The Guide contained useful information for disabled fans attending the tournament, including how to reach each of the host stadiums, and details of the accessible facilities and services that were available on each matchday.

Advanced information is valuable to all football fans, but can be particularly useful to disabled people who may need to plan their journeys in greater detail.

Dedicated accessible services and facilities were provided uniformly at all host stadiums. These included accessible parking, golf carts to transport disabled spectators and spectators with limited mobility to and around the stadium, accessibility assistance points, accessible toilets, priority queues at concessions, and accessible seating.

Accessible seating for Special Access Ticket (SAT) holders included wheelchair user places, easy access standard seats with minimal stepped access, easy access amenity seats with extra leg room for crutches, walking aids or assistance dogs, and easy access extra-width seating for obese people.

All SAT holders, excluding easy access extra-width ticket holders, received a complimentary companion ticket.

Audio-descriptive commentary, a service vital to ensuring blind and partially sighted fans can enjoy an inclusive matchday alongside their fellow fans, was provided by the LOC spectator services team in Russian at all 12 host stadiums. At Saint Petersburg Stadium and Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, audio-descriptive commentary was provided in both Russian and English.

As at all major sporting events, volunteers played a huge role in creating an enjoyable matchday experience for fans. It therefore shows great progress that at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia all matchday volunteers received training in disability etiquette and how to best communicate with a range of disabled people.

A further demonstration of FIFA’s commitment to improving access and inclusion for disabled fans was the daily production of videos on during the tournament using international sign language, to ensure the inclusion of deaf and hard of hearing viewers.

In the words of one disabled fan, the tournament ‘united people from across the world, and nobody cared whether we were disabled or not’.

Now as the dust settles on the 2018 FIFA World Cup, it is important to build on the great successes of the tournament and continue to develop access for all in legacy of the tournament.

Joanna Deagle, CAFE’s Managing Director, explains “With a good number of disabled fans attending a FIFA tournament, CAFE is delighted with the progress made to improve access and inclusion at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. We are committed to building on these improvements and further supporting access and inclusion for disabled people at future tournaments and locally within Russia.”

As part of its legacy work, CAFE is already working closely with the Russian Football Union (RFU), having provided Disability Access Officer training and Disability Inclusion and Etiquette Training to all top-flight clubs.

Ahead of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, FIFA and CAFE established the Accessibility Working Group (AWG) with local Russian stakeholders. The AWG provided invaluable support during the Confederations Cup and FIFA World Cup, and CAFE looks forward to continuing to work with these organisations to further support access and inclusion of disabled people through Russian football.

For more insight on the legacy of the 2018 FIFA World Cup for disabled people in Russia, a round-table discussion hosted by CNN with FIFA Chief Member Associations Officer and CAFE founder Joyce Cook, RFU’s Disability Access Officer Elena Popova and journalist Robert Ustian can be viewed here.

CAFE is very pleased to have already received lots of matchday feedback from the tournament. We are grateful to all disabled fans and their advocates for sharing their comments, which helps us ensure access and inclusion for disabled people continue to develop both at future tournaments and within Russia.

A version of this article is also available in Russian, German and French.

Published 03/09/2018