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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Sports chaplain urges clubs to provide toilets for disabled

The Chaplain for Sport has urged high profile footballers to encourage their clubs to provide toilets for disabled fans.

His call comes as learning disability charity Mencap revealed that only seven Premier League clubs have so far met a pledge made in August 2015 to provide a fully accessible toilet for disabled fans at their grounds within two years.

Known as Changing Places toilets, they are larger than standard accessible facilities as they have additional equipment, including an adjustable changing bench, hoist, privacy screen and enough room for up to two carers.

Mencap believes they are essential for more than 250,000 British people with severe disabilities who need help going to the toilet, and they cost only £10,000, a day’s pay for many Premier League players.

“Some clubs realise that we all have some sort of disability – and put their money where their heart is; enabling everyone to enjoy their football – with comfort breaks that are truly comfortable on site,” Mgr Vladimir Felzmann, Chaplain for Sport and CEO of the John Paul II Foundation for Sport, told The Universe.

With 13 clubs in the top flight still to install one, Mencap has produced a Changing Places toilet league table, which is topped by Liverpool with two registered facilities – registering the toilets is important so those who need them can find them.

Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Southampton all have one registered facility, while Leicester City has one unregistered toilet and West Ham three, having inherited them with the London Stadium. Bournemouth, Everton, Sunderland and Watford have promised to install one by August but Mencap is unaware of any plans to do so at Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Spurs, Stoke, Swansea or West Brom, with the three clubs promoted last season developing plans for 2018.

Mencap’s activism manager Clare Lucas described it as “inexcusable” for over half of the Premier League to be without fully accessible toilets for all disabled fans.

“It’s time for these clubs to step up and support their disabled fans, as they support their team, so that everyone can enjoy watching their team play,” she added.

Mgr Felzmann suggested that players at clubs that are not showing any support for their disabled fans should side with their fans and put pressure on the board.

“Players could make it clear to management that playing for a club that does not respect the physical needs of all is an embarrassment – lowering their morale; perhaps even blaming their poor performances on the lack of decent loos,” he said, pointing out that humour can often reach areas of life that other narratives cannot.

“This story could swiftly release tightly-gripped purse-strings,” he added.

A Premier League statement confirmed that clubs had ‘embarked on a substantial programme of work to improve facilities for disabled fans and rapid progress is being made’.

This weekend’s Premier League fixtures:

Saturday 1st April

Liverpool v Everton – 12:30pm
Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur – 3:00pm
Chelsea v Crystal Palace – 3:00pm
Hull City v West Ham United – 3:00pm
Leicester City v Stoke City – 3:00pm
Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion – 3:00pm
Watford v Sunderland – 3:00pm
Southampton v Bournemouth – 5:30pm

Sunday 2nd April

Swansea City v Middlesbrough – 1:30pm
Arsenal v Manchester City – 4:00pm

Picture: Disabled fans watch a Premier League game from a designated wheelchair area at West Brom’s ground, The Hawthorns. (Mike Egerton/PA).