The working group of the Erasmus+ project - ‘Good Governance Needs Access and Inclusion’ - recently held a meeting in the Belgian city of Gent to continue to develop the implementation of strategies devised in each participating country and to share challenges and best practice examples across the group.

The project, working towards good governance in sport through integrating disabled fans’ feedback into national strategies, kicked off in January 2021 with CAFE joining representatives of national associations, leagues and national disabled supporters associations in Belgium, France and Germany. Universidade Europeia - Portugal (ENSILIS) is also working as the academic partner on the project.

Partners came together to reflect on the outcomes of the project and to consider next steps in their short and long-term development plans. The workshop in Gent followed similar meetings in Paris and Frankfurt, and symbolised the final workshop of the project.

Following the Frankfurt meeting, a second disabled supporters survey was launched to ensure that fans' voices are heard as part of the policy-building process. In Gent, ENSILIS delivered an update on the responses received from disabled fans and identified key trends in their answers. Responses highlighted where any improvements have been made and where disabled fans felt concerns still existed. Each country will receive a more detailed breakdown on the findings in the coming weeks to help them in their planning and strategies around accessibility.

Wim Beelaert of KAA Gent presented on the accessible facilities and services available at the club, providing a short stadium tour with project partners using equipment to help them to understand the experiences of disabled fans inside the stadium.

Partners later broke off into working groups to discuss their experiences throughout the project. All said that they had benefitted from the detailed knowledge sharing platform that the project, and particularly the in-person workshops, had given them. Partners remarked that being able to see good practices and ideas in-person helped them to develop their own solutions to take back with them.

Ligue de Football Professionel (LFP) also presented on the work they are doing to improve the matchday experiences of disabled fans across France. French clubs were surveyed to paint an accurate picture of the facilities and services that they have available, and they intend to carry out these surveys on a regular basis.

In cooperation with CAFE, LFP is developing a training programme for club stewards and volunteers which is being provided to French clubs. The programme intends to raise awareness amongst stewards and volunteers and support them in understanding how to communicate with differently disabled fans in an inclusive, positive and appropriate manner.

Following the workshop, the project partners attended a live match at KAA Gent's Ghelamco Arena, as the home side took on Icelandic team Breiðablik in the UEFA Europa Conference League. Gent fans left the stadium jubilant at full time, having won the match 5-0 and solidifying their position at the top of Group B.

Speaking after the workshop, CAFE Research Officer Hollie Wilson said, "It was a pleasure to join the project partners for a hugely positive and productive meeting in Gent. We would like to extend a huge thank you to our hosts KAA Gent for their hospitality, and to everyone who took part in our project survey. These responses will greatly inform decisions and shape the development of accessibility strategies across European football".

The group will meet again in the coming months for a multiplier event, with CAFE submitting our final project report in the new year.

Erasmus+ is the EU's programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe. The programme is managed by the European Commission, and offers funding for international actions to promote inclusive opportunities.

For more information about the ‘Good Governance Needs Access and Inclusion’ project, please email [email protected] or call +44 (0)208 065 5108.

EU flag along with the text: Co-funded by Erasmus+

The European Commission's support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents, which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Published 31/10/2023