A Level Playing Field?
Thursday 23rd March saw NADS unveil the Level Playing Field campaign at Stamford Bridge. This national campaign celebrates the opportunities for people with disabilities to be actively involved in football, and targets clubs from the Premier League to the Conference. The initiative has been designed by NADS with the backing of the football authorities to highlight and promote the opportunities for disabled people to play and watch the game.
The launch was attended by 48 NADS members, 12 members of the Press and representatives from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Football Association and Wembley National Stadium Limited.
To tie in with the campaign and to begin proceedings, Chelsea Football Club announced the implementation of a new disabled policy, a dramatic shift in ticket pricing for their disabled fans and the launch of the Chelsea Disabled Supporters Association, which NADS’s Jamie Polk will be chairing.
Although NADS endorses Chelsea’s right to issue free tickets to their disabled fans and carers, Phil Downs highlighted that each club can and must make their own commercial decision on pricing. The central tenet of the LPF campaign and the encouraging aspect of Chelsea’s announcement is that decisions were made after dialogue between disabled fans and the club within an inclusive consultation process. A situation highlighted by Peter Kenyon, “We now have a transparent policy in line with guidelines created by NADS, who are the body best placed to liaise with clubs on disabled issues and to advise on best practice in line with current legislation. These new policies, and the ongoing dialogue with our disabled fans through the creation of our new association, will ensure this is a continually evolving process.”
The Level Playing Field campaign itself was introduced by Phil. The campaign will run from early April until the Easter weekend. Each club will be asked to wear the LPF armbands produced by Hy-Pro as well as publicising their disabled facilities and initiatives in their match-day programme and hosting a half time event highlighting their disabled and football in the community initiatives.
Sir Trevor Brooking, The FA’s Director of Football Development and Patron of the ‘Level Playing Field’ spoke at length endorsing the principles of inclusion and communication between the football authorities, clubs and their disabled fans. He reiterated the fact that many positive steps are being taken throughout the country to improve the lot of disabled fans, giving his support to the work being carried out by NADS, not just with ground audits or advice to Clubs, but its role on various FA committees where NADS advice and input had been greatly appreciated. In finishing he stated how delighted he was“… to be working in partnership with NADS on this unique initiative to celebrate opportunities for disabled people in football.”
Finally there were presentations to NADS members from Wembley National Stadium Ltd in relation to their disabled facilities, and the Football Association highlighting their “Football for ALL” programme.
The launch of the Level Playing Field has heralded a new dawn for NADS. Our profile has risen – the event was reported on Sky Sports News, BBC London, Chelsea TV, The Sun, The Daily Express and the Evening Standard – and we are confident of further coverage as the campaign is rolled out over the coming weeks. The process as always is one of evolution not revolution and to that end we would urge all football clubs to join NADS to allow us to expand our sphere of influence further.
Sent in by Roger Commander, chair of Avids.
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