Disabled football fans hope to return to stadiums, but many want Covid measures in place

Stadiums and other outdoor events can now return to full capacity, with government ministers urging spectators to use common sense to manage their behaviour

A leading disability access charity has found that the vast majority of disabled football fans hope to return to stadiums, but many say they won’t unless some Covid restrictions are kept in place.

Level Playing Field received responses from over 1,300 supporters, with nearly three quarters of respondents saying they were keen to return to stadiums.

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However, the vast majority of those keen to cheer on their teams were uneasy about doing so without at least mask wearing and hand sanitising in place.

Sporting events play a major role in many disabled people's social circles and supporters are keen to cheer on their club again (Picture: Level Playing Field)

At a Glance: 5 key points

Nearly 62 percent want hand sanitising stations to be distributed in the stands and public spaces

While 37 percent agreed regular testing of staff would need to be implemented and the same number wanted temperature checks on entry

35 percent want vaccination proof to allow punters to return to games, it the same percentage keen that social distancing remains in place

Two in five disabled football fans would return to stadiums if face masks were mandatory (Picture: Getty Images)

Nearly 30 percent were in favour of stadium capacities remaining limited

More than two in five wanted face coverings to be mandatory

What's been said

Despite their concerns over Covid, the vast majority of respondents made it clear that they would return to matches immediately if some level of measures were in place.

Sharing Level Playing Field’s research, LPF chief executive Owain Davies stressed the importance of going to football matches for disabled fans - many of whom will have spent much of the last 16 months isolating from their social circles.

“It’s really encouraging that fans have confidence in going back. If there was ever a consideration that disabled fans might be reluctant and for the service (to disabled supporters) to be a bit slower to start, (this shows) that can’t happen,” he told the PA news agency.

“Sport is so important for some people, and for some it might be their only access to the community in that week.

“Not having (live) sport has created a huge hole. You can’t replicate going home and away watching your team. People are itching to get back.”

On 19 July in England, almost all legal requirements to take Covid precautions were lifted. In Scotland and Wales, this has been the case since 9 August.

On the day that stadiums could return to full capacity, Ms Sturgeon said: "This is the right moment to remove legal restrictions to try to get that greater normality back in our lives.

"The virus hasn't gone away and the pandemic is not over.”

The Scottish First Minister also urged caution, adding: “We've got to continue to be careful which is why in Scotland we are keeping some sensible precautions in place for example face coverings in many indoor setting.”

Background

While the EFL may ask fans to voluntarily take a test to prove they do not have Covid, EFL clubs did not require fans to provide proof of full vaccination or a negative test to enter for the first round of league games played over the weekend.

Certification of being double-jabbed could come into effect in the Autumn in England, for those wishing to attend venues with a capacity above 20,000. The EFL has urged clubs with this capacity to consider how they would check over 20,000 vaccine passports prior to games and fans have been advised to download the NHS Covid app prior to the certificates becoming a mandatory entry requirement.

The Premier League is yet to set out whether it will take a collective approach to so-called ‘vaccine passports’. Currently only Chelsea say they will insist on it for men’s and women’s matches at Stamford Bridge and Kingsmeadow respectively. The new English top-flight season starts on Friday.

While face coverings are advised by the government in built up areas, no clubs have ruled wearing them while visiting their stadiums.