The Football for All Disability in Football Alliance recently held its third online meeting, with a focus on ensuring an accessible and inclusive matchday experience.

Following on from two previous successful meetings, where focus was placed on learning from other movements and networks and media and marketing in access and inclusion for disabled people in football, this meeting welcomed disabled fan Aubrey Bingham, and FIFA’s Senior Diversity and Accessibility Manager, Hala Ousta, to share experiences.

The Football for All Disability in Football Alliance aims to ensure disabled people’s participation beyond playing aspects of sport and address the low level of disabled people in decision making roles in football. It is not membership based, but represents organisations and individuals that are focused and passionate about the big picture of disability inclusion and aims to act as a vehicle to connect, raise awareness and push the disability-inclusion agenda forward.

The Alliance’s founding partners – Joanna Deagle of CAFE, Eli Wolff of Disability in Sport / Power in Sport, José Soares and Joana Cal, both of Integrated Dreams and the Football For All Leadership Programme, and Gabriel Mayr – also welcomed a number of attendees to join a question and answer panel to close the meeting.

Speaking on his experiences as a disabled Northern Irish fan, Aubrey highlighted the main issues where focus is needed including accessible ticketing, information on public transport accessibility, locations of accessible toilets inside stadiums and specific training for stewards.

Aubrey said, “Very few disabled fans go to away matches, with one of the reasons being that it takes a lot of preparation time and, even with this, you can still encounter access issues in and around stadiums. However, I would highly recommend other fans to go to away matches. It really is an incredible experience - you meet new people, new cultures, new food, new beer and when we end a trip we are already thinking of the next one”.

Hala outlined a number of elements that are going into preparation for this year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar. This includes accessible infrastructure, training for staff and volunteers, the provision of audio-descriptive commentary (ADC) in both Arabic and English, and accessible ticket sales.

On the developments ahead of the FIFA World Cup, Hala said, “It is really inspiring to see how things are developing in Qatar! This is the first time that some of these things are being implemented in this country and we have no doubt around the impact milestones that the FIFA World Cup will leave in all this region”.

When asked to give recommendations for future development, Aubrey responded, “Having disability liaison contacts we can reach out to, and publishing access information and FAQs for differently disabled fans”. Hala added, “We need to keep updated and to continue sharing knowledge so that we can make further enhancements to advance and improve. We also need to communicate and promote more of what we are doing in this area”.

The Alliance will hold a fourth meeting in October 2022, focusing on the topic of inclusive employment in sport. Further information on how to register to attend will be available later in the year.

For more information about the Alliance, please contact Joanna by email to [email protected] or call +44 (0)7463 697 659.

Published 3/8/2022