Uefa has been criticised by disabled supporters’ groups over the number of wheelchair-accessible spaces at Saturday’s Champions League final. Seventy-six positions accommodating wheelchairs will be available to fans of Liverpool and Real Madrid at Stade de France, despite the stadium reporting 550 wheelchair-accessible spaces.
Uefa says much of the wheelchair seating there does not meet its standards, but the disabled access campaigner Level Playing Field has written to the governing body asking for greater explanation and for guarantees that the spaces have not been turned over to TV cameras or corporate sponsors.
“We call on Uefa to review their wheelchair allocation and provide more accessible wheelchair-user space to the fans who make the Champions League final special,” the group said.
“With the Champions League final seen as one of the most lucrative sporting occasions globally, there should be a commitment to investing in infrastructure, not lessening the opportunity. Currently, what’s being provided in total to Liverpool and Real Madrid is just over 0.1% of the overall capacity of Stade de France. This is entirely unacceptable. Any future finals and tournaments need to be looking to provide, not withhold.”
Ted Morris, chairman of the Liverpool Disabled Supporters Association, also expressed disappointment. “We want Uefa to put more emphasis on disabled supporters because this does not smack of inclusion,” he told PA Media.
“I don’t know how they can sit there comfortably with 500 bays and give just 76 to Liverpool and Real Madrid. Over the last three months Liverpool have moved heaven and earth for us and even this morning they have been lobbying Uefa for extra bays but I think it will fall on deaf ears.”
Uefa say much of the seating at Stade de France does not meet its requirements for wheelchair users, which necessitate a clear line of sight to the field and space for a companion. The Champions League final was last held in Paris in 2006 and was moved there from St Petersburg in late February.
“Due to operational challenges, linked in particular to the change of venue for the final on short notice, Uefa was able to assign 93 wheelchair positions (76 allocated to the fans of the two clubs) which fulfil the quality sightlines Uefa aims to offer to disabled spectators and 128 ‘easy access’ seats,” a Uefa spokesperson said.
“For an event of this size, Uefa would usually aim to identify a higher number of positions, but due to operational constraints and the short preparation time, it was not possible to implement optimal solutions for more wheelchair positions.”