On January 15 and 16, the Auditori 1899 at the Camp Nou is hosting the first ever meeting of Disability Access Officers (DAO) from different member clubs, federations and leagues of the Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFE), an advisory body associated to UEFA that was set up to guarantee that disabled supporters from the 55 federations in Europe can attend football matches in an integrative and difficulty-free manner.
FC Barcelona director Emili Rousaud, as manager of the club’s Specialised Services Office (Oficina d’Atenció Especialitzada (OAE)), welcomed the representatives of 18 clubs and 12 federations, leagues and other bodies that are attending this series of workshops.
As per UEFA regulations, every club must have its own DAO, and CAFE is in charge of implementing the role of these officers in each of its members states, establishing a network between them, and holding training sessions at which examples of best practices can be shared between them.
High profile guests
The first such meeting is being run in collaboration with FC Barcelona, one of the leading clubs in terms of its commitments to accessibility and inclusion.
Also in attendance are the Managing Director of CAFE, Joanna Deagle, the head of the DAO project, Jochen Kemmer, and the UEFA Club Licensing Coordinator, Alexis Angelopoulos, along with officers from such clubs as Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, Tottenham Hotspur, AC Milan, FC Porto, Sporting de Portugal, Spartak Moscow, Celtic Glasgow, Atlético Madrid, Real Betis, and others.
One of the topics for discussion on the opening day is the work being done by FC Barcelona in terms of accessibility, as presented by Albert Álvarez, the coordinator of the OAE and the club’s own DAO. Over the two days, UEFA’s accessibility manual and guide to good practices will be featuring prominently in order to foster adequate stadium access and difficulty-free attendance of football matches.
Another goal of these sessions is to identify existing challenges and to suggest ways to improve accessibility to football.
Words from Emili Rousaud
Rousaud described Barça’s implication in inclusion policies and improved accessibility to its facilities, which are already underway in the form of the Espai Barça project to totally revamp the stadium. “Here at the OAE we started to work with other clubs and international federations, CAFE and UEFA” he explained. “And we found that these organisations are working on very clearly defined lines, in the sense that everyone, regardless of their abilities, should have the same opportunities to play and enjoy sport, with all of the supports required to alleviate difficulties, without barriers and with total accessibility to stadiums.”
Rousaud also stressed the importance of meetings like the one being held at FC Barcelona this week, adding that “I would like to congratulate CAFE and UEFA for their initiative and express our pleasure at being able to host this meeting. I am sure that this will be the beginning of a long road of collaboration that will help us to learn and for European football to improve its accessibility and inclusion policies.”