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Do You Have to be in a Wheelchair to Get a Disabled Match Ticket?

It is probably fair to say that football, like society in general, is becoming more and more accepting of all sorts of conditions and situations. That is excellent news for disabled people, who for far too long have been treated as second-class citizens.

At the same time as the British government seems to want to put disabled people under more pressure by scaling back the financial support given to them, football clubs appear to be working harder to make life as easy as possible for those disabled people who wish to be able to attend matches. Not all disabilities are visible, of course, but does yours need to be visible to get counted by clubs?

You Need to Contact the Club

sending message on a phone

Regardless of the football team that you support or wish to go and see play live, in nearly all cases you will need to prove to them that you have a disability. This is far more about trying to deal with the nefarious characters that might try to pretend that they’re disabled in order to gain the advantages offered to disabled people nowadays than it is about trying to ‘catch out’ any truly disabled people. Each club will, of course, have its own way of registering as disabled. You will usually have to fill in a form, explaining your disability and sending the club some proof of the fact that you are actually a disabled supporter.

In the vast majority of cases, this proof will come in the form of evidence that you get the Disability Living Allowance at the medium to high rate, are in receipt of Personal Independence Payment, get an Attendance Allowance or have a Certificate of Vision Impairment. Some clubs will accept a letter from your GP, whilst others will see a copy of a Disabled Parking Blue Badge as good enough proof. It goes without saying that there are all sorts of different levels of disability, so clubs do not require you to be a wheelchair user in order to be considered as a disabled supporter. If you are classed as disabled by the government, you almost certainly will be by a football club too.

What Disabled Supporters Get

If you are a disabled football supporter and would like to register as such with the club that you support, you might well wonder what you will get for the privilege. The answer, of course, will differ from team to team. There is no set of rules that dictates what is expected of a football club for their disabled supporters, but you can usually expect the likes of lift access if your ticket is high up in a stand, or pitch-level access if it is lower down. Disabled supporters are not generally expected to use any stairs, so if there is an access requirement then the club will be expected to make reasonable adjustments for you to be able to make it to your seat/area.

Nowadays, the vast majority of places, even lower league clubs, have accessible toilets that disabled supporters will be allowed to use. These will often include the likes of hoisting systems if needs be, as well as a pull-cord in case of emergency. There are also likely to be accessible catering facilities and dropped down windows at the ticket office in case you need to speak to someone. Guide dogs are usually catered for for supporters with vision problems, whilst some clubs also provide a commentary service with free receivers, offering commentary to fans that are unable to see clearly what is happening on the pitch.

In most instances, clubs will offer a companion ticket to disabled people. This is the case for people irrespective of what their disability is, allowing them to bring someone along with them in order to help with any of their needs. These tickets are usually free, with the ticket price of the disabled supporter usually being given at a discounted rate. If possible, clubs will also offer disabled supporters a parking space close to the ground. Some teams offer a Sunflower lanyard, which is used by disabled people in order to indicate to fellow supporters and club staff that they might need some help or to be given a little more time.

Away Fans

It makes complete sense for disabled supporters to register with their chosen club and let those working at the stadium know that they have a disability. When things become a little trickier, however, is when you are an away supporter visiting the ground of a team that you don’t support and therefore aren’t registered with. In the majority of cases, the host team will send a number of tickets for disabled people as well as carers to the away team, allowing the away team to give them to the supporters that they know will require help with access. Obviously the likes of disabled parking is likely to be more limited for opposition disabled supporters than home ones.

Regardless of your disability, you are not allowed to be discriminated against. As a result, clubs will make any and all reasonable adjustments in order to ensure that you can attend and enjoy supporting your team, even if you’re not a support of the team whose ground you’re visiting. Discrimination on account of a disability is illegal, although that doesn’t mean that all facilities within the ground that you’ll be visiting will necessarily be accessible for disabled people. It is worth bearing in mind that a lot of stadiums were built in the previous century, if not the century before that, so some areas simply won’t be accessible for some.

It is Sometimes About Availability

disabled wheelchair area in football stadium

Clubs will often have a separate set of tickets available to disabled supporters and their companions. Whilst this is good news for disabled fans of teams that don’t tend to sell out their tickets or their ticket allocation for away matches, the same cannot be said of the biggest clubs around the country. If you’re hoping to attend a match at the likes of Anfield or Old Trafford, for example, the demand for tickets from home supporters is high. This is the case for both disabled and able-bodied people, so being registered for a disabled ticket isn’t a guarantee that you will necessary get one. This is even more the case if you’re also after a companion ticket.

Another thing to bear in mind is that you will be considered as a disabled supporter regardless of the event that you’re looking to attend. You do not have to be a wheelchair user to be registered as a disabled supporter, but if the club that you support also hosts concerts, say, you will be restricted in the type of ticket that you’ll be able to buy to those that accessible. You might personally be able to walk up and down stairs or stand for a long period of time, but a lot of disabled people wouldn’t be and you therefore won’t be able to buy a ticket that would be of no use to a wheelchair user, for example, if you’re registered as disabled with the club.