Thursday 25 March was a glorious highveld autumnday. Cotton wool clouds chased rays of sunshine acrosscelestial race-tracks and the South Africa Disability Alliance(SADA) chased down meaningful answers from SAFA andthe 2010 local organising committee (LOC).
The Memorandum of Understanding originally signedbetween SADA (Mr Musi Nkosi) and the LOC promisedengagement on all issues regarding accessibility andaccessible transport but, sadly, it was merely empty wordson empty paper. Rolling Inspiration secured an interviewwith the LOC’s Chief Communication Officer, Mr RichMkhondo, just days before the protest march and tried everyjournalistic trick in the book to get a straight answer out ofhim:- to no avail. He ducked, dived and dodged all issuespertaining to the organisation of the event and, when wewaded in to the questions of wheelchair tickets, stadiumsafety procedures and stadium and transport accessibilityhe breathed a sigh of relief and told us that these were theresponsibility of the hosting cities.
Does that make it true?According to page 114 and 115 of FIFA’s document (football_stadiums_technical_recommendations_and_requirements_en_8211.pdf- available on the FIFA web site) the LOC should ensure certain minimum requirements. As Urs Linsi, FIFAGeneral Secretary, states on page 9 of the document: “This book provides a blueprint for the football stadium of thetwenty-first century. ... Throughout the book, one message should ring loudand clear: no aspect of the football stadiumexperience can ever take precedence over the safety of those using the facility.”
In our previous issue we reported on the number of seats available for wheelchairs at each stadium. It has subsequentlybeen revealed that the figures supplied were doubled up as the auditor erroneously included the tickets of the caregivers in his numbers. This means that, for example, at the Loftus Stadium in Pretoria, where FIFA stipulates a minimumnumber of 250 seats for wheelchairs (0.5% of the total number of seating) there are only 12 wheelchair seats per game.No wonder you couldn’t buy any tickets!!! SAFA’s spin doctor, Mr Rich Mkhondo, says that they based the seating onpast attendances at South African soccer games and so adjusted the seat numbers accordingly. How on earth can youbase wheelchair tickets on previous attendance figures when there has NEVER been accessible transport nor accessiblestadia? And what about the soccer fans from overseas? Where do they factor into the equation? We left the interviewwith an empty answers page and very little hope in our hearts.
SADA tried a stronger tactic, massed protest. Ari Seirlis sent out a statement a few days before and rallied the troops.Despite the lack of accessible transport to the venue, by 10h30 there was a willing and milling mob eager to air theirgrievances and show the LOC just how neglected they feel.
On page 114 of the FIFA document it stipulates: “Theviewing platform for spectators who use wheelchairs should not be in a position where the occupants’ view of theplaying field could be obstructed by other spectators jumping to their feet or by flags or banners hanging in front ofthem.” Mr Danny Jordaan raised this issue in his engagement with the SADA protesters and totally ignored the FIFAstipulations saying that, when spectators jump to their feet and obstruct the view of the wheelchair spectators, marshalswill ask them to sit down!! A direct and blatant disregard of the FIFA requirements.
On page 115 it states: “A specialistaccessibility consultant should be consulted to determine the designs of the stadium to ensure that they comply withinternationally accepted standards.” SADA recommended a specialist accessibility consultant to the LOC some timeago and, when the LOC failed to employ the services of said specialist accessibility consultant, SADA paid the bill andprovided the specialist free of charge! Despite that, the stadia do not comply with internationally accepted standardsand when this issue was raised at the protest march Mr Danny Jordaan berated SADA for airing the issue in public andinsisted that the issue be raised in private at a meeting scheduled for 31 March between SADA and SAFA.
Whereas we cannot ensure you a ticket to the soccer, and we cannot ensure that, if you have a ticket, the experienceshall be accessible, or even advise you fully on accessible transport, we can assure you that Ari Seirlis, and SADA, aredoing everything possible to ensure an accessible and enjoyable soccer experience. Hopefully we shall be able toprovide more positive feedback in our next issue of Rolling Inspiration!