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Thursday 12 December 2019

Bournemouth admit meeting disability access deadline "extremely challenging"

Bournemouth accept to achieve all the requirements of the Accessible Stadia Guide by the August 2017 deadline
Bournemouth accept to achieve all the requirements of the Accessible Stadia Guide by the August 2017 deadline "will prove extremely challenging" at their current Dean Court site

Bournemouth accept meeting an August deadline to become fully compliant with disability access requirements at their current Vitality Stadium home "will prove extremely challenging".

A report by the Culture, Media and Sport select committee listed Bournemouth as one of four Premier League clubs - the others being Chelsea, Liverpool and Crystal Palace - likely to miss the deadline.

Bournemouth are in the process of identifying a site to build a new stadium away from Dean Court for the start of the 2020/21 season, with the current 11,464-capacity Vitality Stadium, which the club do not own, the smallest in the top flight.

The south-coast club, who won three promotions in six seasons to rise from League Two into the top flight of English football for the first time in 2015, accepted the need to meet all access requirements, and said they hope to be able to do so fully when eventually in a new stadium.

A club statement read: "AFC Bournemouth are aware of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee report which states the Cherries are one of a number of Premier League clubs who will not comply with disability access commitments by an August deadline.

"The club is working hard to meet as many of the commitments as possible and are confident that the majority will be completed in that time frame.

"However, due to the structural and logistical nature of Vitality Stadium, which is not owned by the club, meeting the full commitment will prove extremely challenging.

"This includes the requirement for 81 elevated wheelchair positions at different points around the ground - something that could see a significant number of seats removed from what is already the smallest capacity stadium in the Premier League.

"It is already in the public domain that AFC Bournemouth are currently working towards moving into a new stadium in time for the 2020/21 season, and the club have assured the Premier League that all disability access requirements will be met in this proposed facility."

The report a lso criticised West Ham for reducing provision for disabled supporters since taking over the Olympic Stadium, and accused some clubs of "prioritising finance over improving access" - although West Ham say it is based on out-of-date information.

The committee stated it will support the Equality and Human Rights Commission in taking legal action against individual clubs and their respective governing bodies in the event of evidence of their "systemic" non-compliance.

The report's authors quoted Premier League executive director Bill Bush as stating that if the league's member clubs fail to comply with the Accessible Stadia Guide by August 2017, then the Premier League board has the power to impose a wide range of sanctions including fines of £25,000 or, in the event of more serious breaches, referral to a specially appointed independent panel which could impose heavier fines or even deduct points.

The Accessible Stadia Guide was funded and established by the Football Stadia Improvement Fund and the Football Licensing Authority in 2015.

The report revealed that Level Playing Field, the charity which promotes access for disabled fans, has claimed Liverpool will still only have 75 per cent of the minimum wheelchair places available once the first phase of the current rebuild of part of their stadium is complete - and that an improvement in that percentage in the second phase of the rebuild process is dependent on profits from hospitality facilities.

Following the completion of the Main Stand expansion at Anfield, an additional 77 wheelchair viewing positions which were created for the 2016/17 season, taking the ground's total to 197.

Based on Anfield's current capacity of just over 54,000, some 238 wheelchair accessible viewing positions are required to comply with the Accessible Stadia Guide.

Press Association Sport understands Liverpool are exploring a number of options as part of the redevelopment work at Anfield which will go further towards meeting the required wheelchair allocation by August 2017.

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