Published: 05 Oct 2018
The Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in Scotland has announced the agreement of a settlement with Kilmarnock FC which ensures that disabled away fans will be able to sit where they want to rather than being forced to sit apart from the away supporters.
The case was raised by Peter Holden (age 29), a St Johnstone fan who has cerebral palsy who was forced to sit in another part of the ground separated from his fellow St Johnstone fans.
'I’m glad that this has been resolved. When I went to Rugby Park I was told that because I had a “disabled ticket” I couldn’t sit with the rest of the away support. When I challenged this I was told it was for health and safety reasons.
'I was left sitting by myself surrounded by rows of empty seating. It’s not really the best way to watch a game. Part of the fun of football is the atmosphere. It’s quite difficult to have a good time by yourself – you want to be with the rest of the supporters.
'I was surprised because at any other away game I’ve attended this hasn’t been a problem – I can sit where I want, which is with the away support. It’s only been a problem at Rugby Park.'
Having received Peter’s complaint the EHRC met with him and the club and agreed a new approach which means that disabled away fans can buy a “disabled ticket” which does not restrict them to sitting in a specific part of the ground.
Speaking about the settlement Lynn Welsh, Head of Legal for the EHRC said:
'It looks like an overzealous use of health and safety which was applied without thinking about the impact on individuals. Nobody wants to be made to feel different.
'The law is very clear – service providers like football clubs are required to consider disability access before someone arrives at the ground. They should prepare for all types of fans with or without disabilities. In this case that didn’t happen and Peter was made to feel different.
'Unfortunately this isn’t only a problem with football. Too many disabled people tell us about being treated differently in pubs or clubs. Recently music venues have come under the spotlight. The principle is the same – if you are going to an entertainment venue you’ll want to share the experience with your friends.
'Earlier this year we entered into a formal agreement with Chelsea FC which requires them to improve their disability access. We’re glad that we didn’t have to go this far with Kilmarnock. Once the problem was explained fully to them we’re pleased that they did the right thing and put in place new rules which benefit everyone.'
As part of the settlement Peter also received an apology from the chair and complimentary tickets for a game last August.
Notes for editors
- The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is the National Equality Body (NEB) for Scotland, England and Wales. We work to eliminate discrimination and promote equality across the nine protected grounds set out in the Equality Act 2010: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. We are an 'A Status' National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) and share our mandate to promote and protect human rights in Scotland with the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC).
- The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for a service provider to treat a disabled person less favourably than a non-disabled person when providing them with a service. The Act also requires service providers to make adjustments in advance of disabled people wanting to use their services – they need to anticipate that this will occur and plan for it, rather than respond when a disabled person wants to use their services.
- The EHRC published The state of play: progress on Premier League clubs' accessibility in May 2018. At the same time they announced the signing of a section 23 agreement with Chelsea which requires them to take a number of steps to make their ground more accessible within the next two years. The agreement with Kilmarnock FC was reached without the need for a Section 23 agreement.