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Men’s football No disabled fans at League Cup final is ‘direct discrimination,’ says SpursAbility

THE decision to bar clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) supporters from the League Cup final amounts to “direct discrimination,” according to Tottenham’s disabled fans’ group SpursAbility.

Manchester City and Tottenham have each been allocated 2,000 tickets for the match on Sunday April 25, which is part of the government-led Events Research Programme (ERP), a pilot scheme looking at how to get spectators safely into venues amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Details of ticketing and safety protocols for the match were announced today, but the ERP does not allow for people classed as CEV and those living with them to attend.

SpursAbility said in a statement that it was extremely disappointed by the decision and asked for it to be reviewed.

“A number of our members and supporters will fall into this [CEV] classification under recent Covid-19 guidance and have also endured long shielding periods,” the statement read.

“However, most of them will have had their first and second vaccinations and are at considerably lower risk than those who are yet to be vaccinated.

“Government guidance places those aged 70 or over in an equal or higher risk category, yet there is no exclusion issue for anyone in these higher-risk groups.

“The policy adopted for this match is a direct discrimination toward many disabled supporters.

“Some of our supporters have been shielding for over 12 months and have seen this match as an opportunity to return to some form of normal lifestyle.

“The match is allowing only 8,000 spectators in an outdoor stadium with a capacity of 90,000 — less than 9 per cent of its potential. Yet there is a choice to exclude a small group of supporters who would need to disclose their classification on a voluntary basis.

“At the moment, a CEV person who has had the coronavirus and recovered and has subsequently received two vaccine doses is a considerably lesser risk compared with a 40-year-old who may well have unknown health issues. Is this fair and reasonable?

“We ask that this criteria in the government-led research programme for reopening live events to the general public be reviewed.

“Returning to live matches again is the lifeline needed by many disabled supporters to maintain their mental health after long periods of forced isolation, yet they are being precluded on outdated advice and a broad-brush approach open to abuse in so many ways.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) was approached for a response.

CEV fan’ exclusion from the April 25 final at Wembley was also criticised by Level Playing Field, a charity which campaigns for inclusive matchday experience and equal access for all disabled sports fans.

A statement by chairman Tony Taylor read: “Level Playing Field is very disappointed to see that as part of the government’s Events Research Programme and the subsequent guidance, the Carabao Cup final will have a subsection of society excluded, namely: ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ people.”

Those fans eligible for a ticket must take a PCR Covid test before the final and another five days after it and must also travel to a local lateral flow testing site in order to provide proof of a negative test result within 24 hours of the match.

This proof will enable them to gain entry to Wembley and, in the case of City fans, will be needed to access specially chartered trains and coaches from Manchester to London.

City said that 1,500 spaces would be available on these trains and coaches, with 250 car parking spaces at Wembley also available.

The final 250 tickets wil be sold to City fans living in London and the Home Counties, who will need to make their own travel arrangements.

The League Cup final will be the first outdoor sports pilot event under the ERP to feature supporters of the teams involved. In addition to those 4,000 fans, 4,000 tickets will be distributed to residents and NHS staff in the area around Wembley.

There will be 4,000 spectators at Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final, but these will be Wembley residents and NHS staff only.

The success of these pilot events — plus others, including the World Snooker Championship, the FA Cup final and England’s group games in Euro 2020 — will be key steps along the road to allowing supporters back into venues in financially viable numbers from June 21.

Ten sports governing bodies wrote to political leaders last week endorsing the use of a Covid certification system, under which entry to an event could be gained if proof of vaccination, a negative test or antibody immunity was provided.

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