Football’s the world’s most popular sport by far — a 2018 Nielsen report confirmed that more than four out of 10 people consider themselves football fans.
So it’s natural that a significant proportion of those who love the beautiful game are coping with disabilities.
Progress on accessibility is still too slow for some observers — a February 2018 BBC report focused on the Scottish game revealed disabled fans are frustrated that access to stadiums is still lagging behind cinemas and museums.
But there are some advancements — volunteers at east coast outfit Dundee United provide audio commentary for visually impaired fans, while Glasgow’s famous Govan club Rangers have a sensory room for fans with autism or learning difficulties.
If you’re planning a footy trip for disabled fans, here’s some guidance.
If you want information about accessible stadiums in England and Wales, the Level Playing Field website is a good place to start.
You’ll find links to the relevant representatives in every club from the Premier league through to non-league sides and a fan forum with comments and reviews on matchday experiences.
The equivalent organization in Scotland is the Scottish Disabled Supporters Association — their site’s worth checking if you’re based in Scotland or venturing north to catch a big game.
Securing access at local clubs is possibly the most important priority for loyal supporters.
But taking a dream trip to a glamour match between bigger clubs is also a mouth-watering prospect.
In terms of top-tier English sides, global fan favourites Man United started a three-year accessibility plan in 2017 to alter the structure of Old Trafford and provide 300 more positions for disabled fans within the famous theatre of dreams.
And in Scotland, green half of the Old Firm, Celtic, also have progressive policies and facilities for disabled fans.
They’ve got their own active disabled fans’ association, which allocates parking spaces for Blue Badge holders at busy matches through a ballot system and advocates for members throughout the season.
Witnessing maestros like Lionel Messi when they’re still at their peak is a dream shared by many fans.
And Barcelona have improved accessibility at Camp Nou considerably.
Information on wheelchair-accessible tickets is available on their website and they work with the Red Cross to provide wheelchairs to any fans who need them during games.
But wherever you’re planning to travel abroad to enjoy a thrilling match, be sure to make the appropriate arrangements for parking if you’re travelling to your domestic airport in your own vehicle.
International airport parking site Looking4.comwill help you find the best options in terms of proximity and price — book ahead to avoid your best-laid plans unravelling.
There’s still work to be done, but by planning ahead, it’s perfectly possible to arrange a terrific football trip for disabled fans — hopefully, this guidance helps.