Minutes, wheelchair access study meeting, season 2014-15
Attenborough Suite, Millennium Hotel, Chelsea FC
Friday 8th May 2015, 3.00pm
Attendees (Constituency represented/ role)
Alexander, Chris – Finance and Operations Director, Chelsea FC
Gleeson, Chris – Group Facilities Manager, Chelsea FC
Hayes, Tim – Non-ambulant match supporter member
Law, Matthew – Honorary committee member
Piggott, Diane – Disabled Liaison Officer and Supporters’ Clubs Manager, Chelsea FC
Regan, Andy – Independent Chair
Smith, Graham – Head of Ticketing and Head of Supporters’ Liaison, Chelsea FC
Taylor, Simon – Head of Chelsea Foundation, Chelsea FC
Apologies for absence
Hayden, Lisa – Non-ambulant season ticket (“ST”) holder
McGeever, Timothy – Ambulant ST holder
Powell, Mick – Ambulant match supporter member
The Club would like to give feedback on what it has done with CDSA and highlight improvements and alterations that have taken place. The Club will discuss specific developments arising from the study.
One supporter commented that the main problem was members not being able to access tickets and the important introduction of the ROTA and match membership schemes to assist them.
The Club commented that there have been a huge range of improvements. There are 27 more non-ambulant places this year, there is a disability counter at the ticket office in aisle 7, there are lower service counters in the West Lower. RADAR keys are fitted to the correct toilets. There is better signage around the stadium, markings on the steps, mobile units are improved in the East Stand. There is better information in match day programmes and improved Facebook information, the CDSA website also provides excellent assistance. The Club website is linked to the CDSA website.
There is a designated telephone number and email address for disability issues. Tickets can be ordered by telephone. Match membership is now in place.
At the away end, TVs are suspended from the ceiling to assist viewing. There is a better overall view for non-ambulant fans in additional seating where netting has been introduced.
Stickers are included on the chairs to assist. We have introduced rain macs and earpieces are provided when required.
The Club also tries to ensure continuity of staff. We are looking at further improving the toilets for the disabled.
The Club is proud of what the CDSA has achieved and find the meetings very worthwhile.
The Club added that three rows of seats have been netted off in Dickie’s Deck at the front to assist the demand for additional disabled seats. Unfortunately the Club is constrained by the configuration of the stadium from introducing more. There was a proposal to demarcate wheelchair spaces but we found that would actually reduce the number of wheelchairs we can fit in. We’ve therefore used the space in front of the seat and the helper can sit in the adjacent seat to maximise space. That apart, it is difficult to find any additional space but the Club is committed to continue reviewing this.
One supporter commented that for nine years the Club has been asked to expand the amount of disability places but hasn’t been able to. The Matthew Harding Stand disability positions are excellent but few fans can sit there.
The Club said it had considered a platform on the back of the hotel but that was by the away fans and would have involved constructing through the hotel. When our current stadium was built, disabled legislation did not reflect the needs of disabled supporters. It is only more recently that legislation has changed, particularly for new stadia.
There are ST holders at the centre of the West Stand disability area then match members have the other available spaces.
The Club wants to stress that it has looked at possibilities in great detail including plans considered with architects. One supporter commented that, for TV cameras, the Club appears to make major changes around the stadium including commentary boxes being built.
The Club commented that ingress and egress have to be major factors for supporters in respect of where fans are situated. Health and safety has to be paramount and we have to comply with that. The Club has a duty of care to fans.
A further platform was considered in the Matthew Harding Stand, including lifts being built, but fans would not exit quickly enough. Premier League rules changed regarding cameras behind the goals but there are not the same ingress and egress issues for that.
The Club would like to stress that the number of disabled seats has increased from 100 to 127 around the stadium including in hospitality and boxes.
The fact is the most recent stand is 15 years old. Newer stadia cater better for everyone including disabled fans. All plans have been considered to assist disabled fans and we have managed to introduce some of them further to long internal discussions.
One supporter reiterated that although there have been many improvements it’s disappointing that this specific issue of number and quality of disabled places hasn’t been resolved.
The Club commented that the West Stand was built in quite an old-fashioned design. The Matthew Harding Stand elevated platform provides excellent viewpoints. The Club was asked why that platform was reduced in length and responded that it hasn’t been since it was built. Nothing has changed physically there. There may be a restricted view issue.
If the Club moves to a new stadium then it will provide modern facilities with a greater capacity for disabled fans. The Amex in Brighton is an example of this. The Club has said previously that all options regarding a bigger stadium are considered but no specific site is being pursued. It would love to be in a bigger and more modern stadium and the Club will announce if and when there is a decision. However we comply with legislation for older stadia.
The Club has tried to do all it can to address the issue of introducing higher views. Dickie’s Deck is well positioned for height but is next to the away supporters.
The meeting finished at 3.35pm.