Anger as Coventry City axes some free tickets for disabled fans’ helpers

Coventry City Football Club is facing criticism after axeing some free tickets for the personal assistants and carers of disabled fans. The club announced that disabled supporters under the age of 14 would no longer get free tickets for a carer because of the requirement that an adult must accompany all under-14s at the arena anyway.

In a statement, the club said the change brought them in line with other clubs and was made following consultation with both the English Football League and Level Playing Field, the campaign group for disabled sports fans.

But some fans have already raised concerns about the plans and how it will affect them. And a charity has said it does not back the move.

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Mum-of-three Rebecca Carless, who has two children with care needs, raised concerns about the scheme in an interview with the BBC. She said it was good to take the family together.

But she said simple things such as going to the toilet under the new scheme would be problematic. “It’s really difficult in my situation - I’ve got to take someone with me if I want to take them all up,” she said.

Another fan told the BBC the scheme was discriminatory and unfair. The unnamed fan said they had asked the club to consider their son’s situation.

“His mother is a single mother of another younger sibling and cannot afford to take our son to the football,” they told the BBC. “Finance aside, she can't even consider attending as the younger sibling is too young and would detract from the attention that our son requires to keep him safe.”

The club claimed that Level Playing Field guidance advised them that where the disabled person is a young child, and their Personal Assistant/Carer is their parent, it would not unlikely be necessary to allow the adult to attend for free as part of the reasonable adjustments duty, as the club already required all children under 14 years old to be accompanied by an adult.

However, the BBC later reported that Level Playing Field said they did not endorse the changes. In a statement, a spokesperson said that they were contacted “shortly in advance” of the new changes and that they had “clarified that the intended changes were not a Level Playing Field recommendation, but this advice did not have any impact on the implementation."

The changes mean the club now requires supporters to be on the Enhanced rate of PIP or Higher Level Rate DLA to receive a free Personal Assistant ticket. The club accepted that not all circumstances or requirements to attend a game would be covered by the Enhanced PIP or Higher Level DLA criteria, and that the ticket office would consider examples on a case-by-case basis.

It also means that for the 2024/25 season, personal assistant tickets will not be reissued automatically, forcing those who need them to coordinate with the ticket office. Ultimately, the club said its intention was to “ensure that disabled supporters who require assistance will still be able to get a Personal Assistant ticket, while ensuring we have a system that is both fair and robust.”

A club spokesperson said the changes would be brought in for next season. “Coventry City’s new guidelines require supporters to be on the enhanced rate of PIP (personal independence payment) or higher level rate DLA (disability living allowance) to receive a free personal assistant ticket," they said.

“Under-14s will no longer be provided a free personal assistant ticket, due to the requirement for all under-14s in the arena to be accompanied by an adult.”

They accepted that the requirements might not cover all circumstances. “Under-14s may still require a personal assistant due to their needs - the ticket office will consider all examples such as these on a case-by-case basis,” they added.

Fans were advised to contact the ticket office with queries about the policy. “The changes that are being made ensure that disabled supporters who require assistance, will still be able to get a personal assistant ticket, while ensuring we have a system that is both fair and robust,” the spokesperson added.

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