Manchester United face legal action after EHRC receives series of complaints over treatment of disabled fans following Arsenal incident

A witness revealed that an elderly man in his 80s was refused entry before having his walking stick temporarily confiscated by stewards

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The Independent Football

Manchester United have been threatened with legal action following a series of complaints made regarding their treatment of disabled fans at Old Trafford.

The news comes after witnessed reported an incident involving a steward at the Premier League club’s home ground who confiscated a walking stick off an Arsenal fan in his eighties during the recent 1-1 draw between the two sides last month.

The Equality and Human Rights Commision has written to both the club and the Premier League, and is asking to meet with both parties and seek “urgent assurances that disabled fans will be treated fairly and equally as the law requires”, The Telegraph has reported.

 

As well as the reported incident involving the Arsenal supporter, complaints have been made about fans being prevented from buying season tickets, wheelchair users being placed in areas that lack the adequate space needed and families with disabled children unable to sit together during matches.

The EHRC also confirms that complaints have been made of walking sticks being confiscated.

One witnessed said claimed that three Arsenal fans were refused entry on 17 May because they had either walking sticks or crutches. A man in his 80s was stopped because he had a walking stick, while two men in their 20s and 40s respectively were stopped for using crutches, with the younger man also having a plaster cast on his leg.

It’s added that the fans were denied entry because the walking aids were deemed as weapons.

Greater Manchester Police officers were called to the scene along with stadium control, only for the three fans to be told that the disabled section at Old Trafford – which has 120 seats for wheelchair users – was full.

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Ander Herrera celebrates his goal against Arsenal on 17 May

Once the fans were finally allowed in and taken to their seats, the walking stick and crutches were confiscated for the duration of the game.

Greater Manchester Police confirmed to The Telegraph that an officer was called to the incident and was informed by the steward that ground regulations prevent fans from entering the stadium with what was perceived to be a potential weapon.

Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief legal officer at the EHRC, said that the complaints have “included discriminatory policies that prevent disabled fans having the same opportunities to attend football matches as non-disabled people.

“Premier League clubs have a legal duty under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure reasonable adjustment for disabled fans and to make sure they do not discriminate against them. While our preference is always to work with organisations to avoid costly legal proceedings, all options remain on the table because disabled fans deserve better.”

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Theo Walcott's deflected strike secured a 1-1 draw at United

A United spokesman said: “Our club policy is to encourage any supporters who require the use of crutches or a walking aid to contact the club in advance to ensure each case is adequately risk-assessed and that we can ensure safe evacuation in the event of emergency. On some rare occasions, we have also experienced such devices being used as weapons. This policy is displayed at the turnstiles and on our website. The disability liaison officers from both clubs also communicate this policy in advance.

“Where supporters arrive without having pre-notified us of the need for such devices, our stewarding team performs a dynamic risk assessment which usually involves finding a solution to accompany the supporter to their seat and storing the walking device during the game.

“At the game in question a significant number of visiting supporters who had not pre-notified the club arrived with walking devices. Therefore the above system was put into place. No person was refused entry to the stadium.”

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