DW Stadium criticised by disabled campaigners

Wigan Athletic has defended its facilities for disabled fans after stinging criticism from a charity over accessibility issues.

Disability charity Revitalise has ranked Latics and the DW Stadium near to the relegation zone of its Championship league table in terms of its provision.

But the club has hit back at the report by claiming they are “proud” of the facilities on offer at their home ground, adding that the charity’s survey is misleading.

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The research conducted by Revitalise said only four clubs in the second tier had the recommended number of spaces required for wheelchair users, as dictated by government guidelines.

Those four are Blackburn Rovers, Derby County, Rotherham United and Brighton and Hove Albion. The league table places Latics as languishing in 21st spot with just 34 per cent of the recommended capacity for disabled fans.

A spokesman for Wigan Athletic said the survey - which also took into account each club’s revenue - focused on numbers rather than the facilities on offer in each stadium.

A club statement said: “We are proud of the facilities offered to wheelchair users at the DW Stadium. There are eight specific viewing platforms offering unhindered, elevated views of the pitch, with excellent access to and from the concourses, which can be accessed via lifts. “Additionally we have an overspill area across the front of the main stand should demand be there.

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“We have never turned away any wheelchair users on the grounds of not being able to accommodate them in the 17 years the stadium has been built.

““We have a dedicated disabled supporter liaison officer operating from the ticket office, dealing with all ticketing and access issues. As per UK law, disabled supporters pay age-appropriate entry fees, although carers do enter free of charge.

“We feel this survey does not ask the correct questions as to views offered, accessibility, car parking access and the caring approach of our staff. It implies the club does not welcome disabled supporters in the way that it should which could not be further from the truth.”

Revitalise Chief Executive Chris Simmonds said: “As we speak there is a new law passing though the House of Commons which will give local authorities the right to close stadiums down if they do not comply with the Accessible Stadia Guidelines.

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“Would it not make good sense for the Championship clubs to do the right thing by their disabled fans now, rather than run the risk of losing their right to stage football at all?

“Disabled supporters have an absolute right to expect the same enjoyable, socially inclusive experience as every other fan and football clubs have a moral and legal obligation to provide this .”