CAFE, born to improve access to football. A conversation with the Million Seater Stadium.

The Million Seater Stadium had an opportunity to talk to the winners of the 4th edition of the #MSSWeekly Awards, CAFE. CAFE is the center for access to football for disabled fans. We sat down with Michael Rice, and discussed the past, present and future of the project.

-           How was CAFE created, and why? Did you feel there was a clear need for this kind of service?

CAFE was founded in 2009, when UEFA awarded its Monaco Prize to the creation of a new organisation to work on improved access for disabled fans. Previously, this area had never really been addressed on a European scale and UEFA had identified the need for such an organisation to advise them and their National Associations on access and inclusion.

-          How many people are working at CAFE?

We have continued to grow since 2009, and now have 5 full –time members of staff in London and Barcelona, plus 2 consultants working with us in Eastern Europe.

-          What would you say is the biggest challenge for your organisation? Can you think of any club that was particularly receptive and went for it full speed ahead?

There are often a lot of preconceptions about improved access being expensive and, in some cases, cost-prohibitive. This is not the case, and many low-cost solutions can have the biggest impact. An open mind and a can-do approach doesn’t cost anything, and is usually the most important quality needed to improve access and inclusion. Whilst some of the world’s largest national associations and clubs do some great work, we often find incredible stories from the smaller and less wealthy parties who have made huge changes for many disabled people.

-           Do you feel that since then clubs and federations have done a lot to change their position/behaviour towards disabled fans? Have they grasped the importance of helping their fans?

We have witnessed a great deal of change since 2009, and UEFA’s tremendous support for our works has been a key factor in this. National associations, leagues, clubs and venues across Europe have embraced our message of Total Football Total Access. We’ve seen huge improvements, and a significantly higher number of disabled people now able to take their rightful places within the game we all love – not just as fans but also as players, coaches, officials, administrators, decision makers and leaders. In 2011, CAFE and UEFA launched Access for All – the joint Good Practice Guide to Creating an Accessible Stadium and Matchday Experience – which contains minimum access requirements for stadiums and venues. This has really helped to raise awareness amongst national associations and clubs of what access and inclusion looks like in a stadium environment.

UEFA has also ensured that they host increasingly accessible Finals and tournaments, and have confirmed their commitment to inclusion by identifying access as a key objective for future Finals hosts. UEFA has also enshrined the Disability Access Officer role within its Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, requiring all clubs and national associations to appoint an identifiable point of contact for disabled fans.

Access all: http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/access-all

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-         What's your philosophy, your conception of the role of football to make societies better and to help those in need?

There are over one billion disabled people living in the world today – the world’s largest minority group – and it is safe to assume a significant proportion of these will be football fans. We feel football has the power to stimulate real change in the lives of many disabled people, many of whom have never had the opportunity to participate in a live sporting or public event. By making football accessible to all, we achieve a great deal more including knocking down many attitudinal barriers that disabled people often face in everyday life.

-          What's next for CAFE? Are you expanding?

We have our sixth annual CAFE Week of Action taking place from 3-11 March, where we invite stakeholders from right across the game to come together and celebrate the many important roles disabled people can play within football. We have also recently launched our expert Audio-descriptive Commentary Network and Training Programme, which we expect will result in many more partially sighted and blind fans being able to enjoy an inclusive match day experience. Our works with UEFA continue to develop, and as part of their Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations CAFE is supporting the implementation of the Disability Access Officer role at national associations and clubs right across Europe. CAFE is also working with FIFA around the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Russia, and will be publishing access information guides for disabled fans travelling to the Finals.

CAFE is also planning our third international conference, which will take place towards the end of 2018, and we have begun our preparations around UEFA EURO 2020.

Week of Action: http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/about-cafe-week-action

Audio Descriptive Commentary: http://www.cafefootball.eu/en/news/cafe-launches-audio-descriptive-commentary-network-and-training-programme

 

-          Any dream you would like to achieve in the coming years with CAFE?

Our dream is a simple one – a game that is free of all barriers with equality of choice for disabled and non-disabled people. We call it Total Football Total Access, and we will continue to strive towards this as our standard.

CAFÉ website: www.cafefootball.eu 

Email: info@cafefootball.eu

Phone number: +44208621 2405

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