‘Direct discrimination’: extremely vulnerable fans barred from Carabao Cup final

The decision to bar clinically extremely vulnerable supporters from the Carabao Cup final is “direct discrimination”, according to a group of disabled Tottenham fans.

Manchester City and Tottenham have each been allocated 2,000 tickets for the match on 25 April, 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 pandemic.

The ERP does not allow for those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) or those living with them to attend. SpursAbility said it was extremely disappointed, and asked for the decision 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 group said in a statement. “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 at 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% 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supporters to maintain their mental health after long periods of forced isolation, yet they are being precluded on outdated advice and a broad-brush approach open to abuse in so many ways.”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 has been approached for a response.

Under-18s are also not allowed to attend the match. Those fans eligible for a ticket must take PCR Covid tests before and five days after the final, and must travel to a local lateral flow testing site to provide proof of a negative test within 24 hours of the final.

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. City said 1500 spaces would be available via these trains and coaches, and 250 car parking spaces would be available at Wembley. The final 250 tickets would be sold to City fans in London and the home counties, who would need to make their own travel arrangements.