BURNLEY Football Club’s inclusion programme has received a Parliamentary seal of approval following a high-profile visit to Turf Moor.
Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson, visited the stadium on Friday and toured the club’s new accessible stands.
Mr Tomlinson, who was accompanied by Burnley MP Anthony Higginbotham, was also briefed on the charities’ disability sports project, which has helped to deliver life-changing opportunities to disabled young people and adults across Burnley by providing young disabled people and adults across Burnley with the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from sport and other positive activities.
Mr Tomlinson said: “Full credit to Burnley. A few years back I met with the then Premier League chairman, Richard Scudamore, and we put pressure on the league, collectively, to provide more access for fans, to make sure sport was fully accessible to all, for entertainment, inspiration and opportunity.
“What I have seen here, including the increase in provision and the community work being undertaken – and which I’d previously seen – shows that Burnley have really stepped up to the ask and that will make such a difference to so many members of the local community.
“One in five people in this country have either a disability or a long-term health condition and it makes sense for sports clubs to step up and make sure they have the largest possible potential fan base.”
The two new accessible stands at Turf Moor are a commitment to ensure the disabled supporters’ matchday experience is the same as any other fan and apply reasonable adjustments under the Disability Discrimination Act for those who have additional needs in the ground on match days.
Both stands are expected to be at full capacity for the first time at the start of the 2021/22 Premier League season.
Doug Metcalfe, Head of Operations and Disability Access Officer at Burnley FC said: “We are delighted to have had the opportunity to showcase our accessible supporter facilities to the minister.
“The club’s facilities have undoubtedly come a long way in a relatively short space of time, now providing a suitable and appropriate environment for our disabled supporters.
“Delivery of the stadium infrastructure is one aspect and we will also continue to work closely with our disabled supporter groups and community outreach programmes to ensure that the opportunity to attend a match day is extended to all by improving the accessibility – as well as the experience, enjoyment and perceptions of Turf Moor as an all-inclusive venue.”
The Clarets’ disability sports project works within the context of Burnley FC’s official charity, Burnley FC in the Community, and was initially supported by former Burnley player and England international Danny Ings.
Michael Colquhoun, head of community welfare and inclusion at Burnley FC in the Community, said: “We were really pleased to speak with Justin and to tell him about our Charity and one of our flagship projects, the Disability Sport Project.
“We run a number of unique initiatives for young people and adults on the project, ensuring there is access and opportunity for all.”
Harry Pate, also of Burnley FC in the Community, added: “The disability sport project is a great offering for young people and adults in Burnley and surrounding areas.
“It provides opportunities to participate in different sports and activities tailored around their individual needs, ensuring them a positive experience.
“On a weekly basis, we engage with over 100 people a week across a variety of sessions.”
Burnley’s commitment to inclusion was also praised by the town’s MP.
Mr Higginbotham said: “The investment in the disability-friendly stands at Turf Moor is brilliant and Burnley Football Club should be proud that they are leading the way in opening up football to yet more people.
“Fans should always be front and centre of the game and that’s exactly what our football club is demonstrating.
“It was also great to welcome the Minister for Disabled People to our borough – bringing Government focus and the opportunity to see one of Burnley and Padiham’s iconic locations.”