The annual UEFA Monaco Charity Award of CHF 1m has been presented to the UK National Association of Disabled Supporters (NADS) for its Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFE) project, a four-year development programme.

Draw presentation

UEFA President Michel Platini presented Joyce Cook, NADS chair and managing director of CAFE, and former Manchester United FC player Danny Wallace – ambassador for NADS and CAFE – with the cheque at the UEFA Champions League group-stage draw ceremony in Monaco on Thursday.

Access for disabled fans

The objective of the CAFE project is to offer further access for disabled fans to football games and improve stadium infrastructures to this end across Europe. It also aims to raise awareness and enhance the lives of disabled people using the special influence of football within Europe, as well as building up a network of disabled supporter groups across the continent.

Social inclusion

UEFA's grant will help NADS develop the CAFE initiative throughout Europe, by making the game more accessible for disabled fans, but also contributing to the inclusion of disabled people within social life as a whole. Through the CAFE programme, the UK body will be able to share its expertise and give support and guidance to all stakeholders – including UEFA, national associations, leagues, clubs and fans, as well as disabled supporter groups.

UEFA recognition

"I want to say a huge thank you to UEFA on behalf of disabled people across Europe," said Joyce Cook. "We are delighted by this decision which highlights UEFA's recognition of disabled supporters and its commitment to creating an equal experience for all football fans.

Improving lives

"Using the special influence of football within Europe, CAFE will raise disability awareness and improve the lives of disabled people," she added. "I believe that through football, CAFE will contribute to strengthening understanding of disability and help disabled people become welcome in communities across Europe and valued, alongside non-disabled supporters, at the heart of the football-going experience. Thanks to UEFA's generosity, our vision has been transformed into an achievable plan designed to span all 53 UEFA member associations."

Supporter website

The CAFE website – – to be launched shortly will create a multilingual, accessible and inclusive European hub which will grow organically over time. It will supply disabled supporter information on European football stadia alongside disability, access and building regulations guidance, with help sheets and support materials. It will also provide an evolving database containing information on disabled fan groups and associated organisations across football in Europe.

CAFE‚ Centre for Access to Football in Europe - Executive summary

'Europe' will be used to describe the 54 member Football Associations of UEFA which extend beyond geographical Europe and include countries further afield such as Israel and Kazakhstan. CAFE will be responsible for this larger geographical area.

500 million people live within the European Union (EU) alone and around 10% are disabled.  It is therefore reasonable to conclude that within the UEFA geographical region there may be more than 100 million disabled people.   At least 500,000 are likely to be football supporters - and they have the right to enjoy football in the same way as everyone else:  the right to equality of access.    This applies to football at all levels.  More and more disabled supporters want to travel to UEFA matches and tournaments; as provisions improve, they will feel they can attend major tournaments like EURO 2012 alongside fellow supporters.

Building regulations and guidance varies considerably in each country including the provision for accessible public buildings. The European Standards that currently exist do not necessarily provide specific or detailed access guidance for sports stadia.

The standards of accessible facilities and services at existing football stadia at national and club level vary considerably.

Football has proven itself an excellent ambassador for change in other areas of diversity such as racism, with positive outcomes in countries with a previous history of inequality and abuse.

There is no doubt that football can do the same for disabled people in Europe. Many disabled people currently feel excluded from their communities, rarely leave their homes, are not empowered to contribute to the workforce, have low self esteems and may well feel very isolated.

A European organisation to support this ambition is now required to ensure equal access and inclusion for all existing and new disabled supporters across Europe.

CAFE is being established as a new European charity (registered in the UK) with a purpose to achieve equal access to football across Europe.

CAFE wants all disabled supporters to enjoy a football match as a problem-free experience:  its aims are about inclusivity and equality of experience.  And, because football embraces diversity in all its forms, CAFE believes it can raise disability awareness throughout Europe.

UEFA will be a founding sponsor donating 1 million Swiss Francs to establish CAFE over the next 4 years.

Aims of CAFE:

  • - To enable disabled people to follow football in Europe
    - To achieve equal access for all football supporters in Europe
    - To increase disability awareness and improve the lives of disabled people using the special influence of football within Europe
    - To establish a European network of disabled football supporters

Published 31/08/2009