Deutschland 06 - Disabled fans view
World Cup 2006 starts today and looks like being, for those amongst us who love our football, to be heaven on earth. What could be better than a month of football on the television. It might even wean me off of Big Brother (which I can tell you is a very good thing), but I have been thinking about the plight of disabled fans wishing to follow England, or indeed any nation out in Germany. What will the facilities be like, have any tickets been allocated to disabled and visually impaired England fans for the Group matches?
The National Association Of Disabled Supporters (please see the link on the side bar) have been working hard with the Football Association to try and get some ticket information out of the German orginisers of the tournament and as reported in their Spring edition of their magazine Gazetta, this has been an extremely frustrating process. At the time of going to print (which was about 3 weeks ago) NADS were still not 100% certain of the facilities that awaited disabled fans. England have been allocated in the region of 5000 tickets for each of the group games, which is woeful anyway when you think that about 100,000 fans will be making their way to Germany for the tournament. However that is another matter.
Initially there were just 3 (yes 3!!!) wheelchair places for each of the group matches this has now been increased to 8 for the Paraguay game, 6 for the Trinidad and Tobago game and 9 for the Sweden game. It seens that disabled fans have been overlooked yet again. My local club and Champions of League One, Southend United, allocate more wheelchair places than that and their stadium is a quarter of the size of the venues England will be playing in. The World Cup organisers have also, so very kindly, allocated 5 tickets per game for visually impaired supporters plus 5 passes for their assistants. Again, in my opinion, this is barely adequet. Yet their are thousands upon thousands of corporate tickets knocking about and 12 British MP's are off on a jolly on a corporate junket. Now they may well be football fans but what gives them the right to jump the queue when hundreds of disabled fans won't be able to attend because such a pitiful allocation has been made to them.
NADS having been doing a fine job trying to obtain more tickets for disabled fans but I'm not convinced that the organisors actually want crips in the stadia. Maybe it'll spoil the corporate hospitality peoples day out if they have to see someone in a wheelchair!! It kinda leaves a bad taste in the mouth knowing that yet again disabled people have been forgotten. After all the World Cup is arguably the biggest sporting event on the planet and disabled people have as much right as anybody else to attend.