CAFE has become aware of information circulating online regarding the number of wheelchair user spaces available at the upcoming UEFA Champions League Final (UCLF) 2022 in Paris.

Our key mission always has been, and always will be, to ensure that all disabled people can take their rightful places within stadiums and enjoy an accessible, inclusive and welcoming matchday experience. We have worked with our partners, UEFA, since 2009 to improve accessibility and raise wider awareness and we continue to do so.

Both of the finalist clubs are allocated a number of seats, which includes general allocation seats, wheelchair user spaces and easy-access seats for other disabled people who don’t use a wheelchair. In addition to this allocation, UEFA runs its own ticket sales windows during the season in all categories.

Each club has received 38 wheelchair user spaces for the UCLF. In addition, 17 wheelchair user spaces have also been sold through UEFA’s online ticketing portal, including to disabled fans of both clubs. The majority of the remaining 457 wheelchair user spaces inside the stadium have been deemed of not sufficient quality to sell, for reasons including poor sightlines and unsuitable locations. Some have also been removed due to UEFA operational and security measures.

The solution in the case of poor sightlines should not be to remove affected wheelchair user spaces, but to invest in long term solutions to improve sightlines for wheelchair users attending this Final and future matches at the Stade de France.

This season’s Final was originally scheduled for Saint Petersburg, and moved to Paris on 25 February. This gave UEFA a short timeframe, making it difficult to implement any structural changes inside the stadium for the match. However, temporary solutions could also be implemented, such as seat kills in the rows in front of wheelchair user spaces with poor sightlines.

Since 2016, and largely as a result of UEFA EURO 2016 matches held in France including the Stade de France, CAFE and UEFA have emphasised a focus on quality sightlines and experience. Quality is just as important as quantity, and disabled people should not have to accept a lesser experience than other fans inside a stadium. Disabled people should also have the same opportunities to apply for and purchase tickets as non-disabled fans. Ahead of every Final, CAFE encourages investment in sustainable solutions, improving existing spaces as well as seeking to create new ones so that more disabled people can attend live matches.

Our works on improving accessibility for a Final typically begin a year before the match. We take a pan-disability approach to these works, including appraising facilities and services available at the stadium for all disabled people, and suggesting improvements that can be made ahead of the match.

CAFE has worked with UEFA to ensure that high-quality audio-descriptive commentary (ADC) for partially sighted and blind fans will be available at the UEFA Champions League Final, in both French and English. We have supported UEFA in their proof of eligibility ticket checks, which have filtered out hundreds of fraudulent applications that would have otherwise seen tickets for disabled fans being taken by non-disabled people.

To support disabled fans attending the match, CAFE has published a disabled spectator’s guide with information on accessible facilities, services, public transport and important points of contact in and around the stadium. This can be downloaded via the CAFE website.

We will also implement a match monitor programme, collecting feedback on disabled fans’ matchday experience which will be used to influence future improvements at the stadium.

It is regrettable that a large number of spaces are not of sufficient quality to allocate to disabled fans for the Final. CAFE is committed to working together with UEFA to ensure as many disabled people as possible have the opportunity to enjoy its showpiece Finals and tournaments in an accessible, inclusive and welcoming environment.

If you are a disabled fan attending the UEFA Champions League Final, we encourage you to share your feedback, photos and videos with us via email to [email protected].

Published 26/5/2022