Date: 22nd October 2016 at 12:04am
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Calls for Premier League clubs to finally get their seating arrangements in order for disabled fans across the country have continued this week and Premier League executive director Bill Bush has confirmed to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport that a range of potential penalties are available to the Premier League for clubs who continue to flout the law.

With it being over two decades since the Disability Discrimination Act (1995) starting coming into force and one of the prime sections of the act concerning how service providers treated those with a disability, of course football grounds are by no means the only businesses around the country to still not fully comply with the requirements, but with the inflated television money coming into the game in recent seasons, plenty obviously point to why that hasn’t been better spent.

Of course September saw reports that as things stood seven Premier League clubs would struggle to comply with the Premier League’s self set deadline to comply with the Accessible Stadia Guide by August 2017, and with this summer’s Paralympics and Great Britain’s success in terms of a medal haul, the spotlight clearly remains on this issue, and last Tuesday in front of the Select Committee, Bush confirmed that clubs could face substantial fines for failing to comply by the deadline – but more importantly, a potential points deduction had not been taken off the table either.

Now I doubt very much whether it would reach that stage, it would be counter productive to the Premier League itself and with the so called big club/small club split – plenty would look for and argue bias if a less rich club faced a punishment that a more rich club didn’t on that front.

Bush explained.

‘The rule book allows for a wide range of sanctions – up to about £25,000 of fines. If it goes beyond £25,000 then an independent panel will consider circumstances. We are ready to consider what an appropriate intervention would be. The issue of docking points…would be discussed by the panel, who would form a view.’

In the world of the Premier League I fail to see how a fine of £25,000 could be considered as substantial by any stretch of the word, and if that’s the best they can do by themselves (not even half of what a club earns from being screened live once) and an independent panel is required to levy a higher fine, well, simply put that’s pathetic.

Bush wouldn’t name or confirm the clubs who were underperforming and likely to fail by next August, but he did say a definitive club by club list would be published by the Premier League in January to show current progress.

The Select Committee also questioned whether the Premier League could dictate in future how parachute payments were distributed in relation to this topic, and Bush knew there would be ‘enormous resistance’ dictating how relegated clubs spent their parachute money.

Following the Tuesday meeting, the Premier League released the following statement on the day.

‘Premier League clubs are working extremely hard to improve disabled access in their grounds. The commitments made in this area are wide-ranging and will set new standards for sport and other sectors. They have challenged all clubs, some of which will have significant logistical and built environment issues, involving old stands, planning issues and new stadia. All are working towards making their grounds meet the appropriate standards in the agreed timescale and improving the experience for their disabled fans.’

With this issue now rumbling on for years, few campaigning for improvement will be placated just yet, especially as the Premier League maintain that funding to reach compliance isn’t the issue and they insist clubs aren’t against making the changes – but still fans wait.

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