The Liverpool FC Disabled Supporters Association has called UEFA’s allocation for wheelchair users at Saturday’s Champions League final at the Stade de France “totally unacceptable” after only receiving an allocation of 38 seats. The de facto stadium for the French National Team has 550 wheelchair spaces, but only 93 will be in use for the match.
Ted Morris, Secretary of the LDSA released a statement to The Mirror about this:
“This would be a meagre allocation in any circumstances for a game of this magnitude but given the Stade de France usually has 550 spaces available it is totally unacceptable We have over 200 wheelchair bays at Anfield and as a result of the shortfall many of our supporters who are wheelchair users have been left disappointed.”
“The key question is what has happened to the other 474 bays? But whatever the reason it has resulted in disabled football fans being forced out of a massive game and that can’t ever be acceptable.”
Level Playing Field, a charity and campaign group for disabled sports fans wrote to UEFA on the issue and received this reply:
“We acknowledge the situation and state that we agree that the number of seats available to disabled and low mobility supporters is insufficient. We (UEFA) constantly work to ensure the best possible conditions to eliminate barriers to access to UEFA competitions matches.”
“Due to operational challenges, linked in particular to the change of venue for the final on short notice (Stade de France replaced Saint Petersburg only on February 25), 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.
“For an event of this size, UEFA would usually aim to identify a higher number of positions, but due to operational constraints (e.g. security, poor view, etc.) and the short preparation time, it was not possible to implement optimal solutions for more wheelchair positions.”
In response, Level Playing Field returned with more thought-provoking questions that the European governing body hadn’t seemed to previously consider:
“We have asked UEFA to clarify this and does that mean that UEFA believes that the 474 spaces not being sold are not fit for purpose?”
“The Stade de France in Paris also happens to be the home of the Paris 2024 Olympics/Paralympics. Does this mean that both events will have the same issues with poor infrastructure?”
“We have also asked UEFA for assurances that these wheelchair user spaces are not being used for camera/media positioning or given to corporate partners that do not have a disability.”
“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.”
It is pretty bizarre that 474 spots at France’s national stadium which has held multiple major sporting events in the past would be deemed to have suboptimal sightlines. Regardless of the real reasons behind this decision, this continues a recent trend of UEFA limiting fans to major finals and doing a generally piss-poor job of holding them, with the lack of water available at the Frankfurt-Rangers Europa League Final also a recent issue. Do better, UEFA.