French club Paris Saint-German were ordered by UEFA to close part of their stadium as punishment for their supporters’ abuse of disabled Chelsea fans during their Champions League quarter-final match in April.
UEFA said that it had ordered a one-match closure of sectors 104 and 105 of the Parc des Princes, the club’s home stadium in the French capital.
“The sanction has been imposed for the discriminatory conduct of some Paris Saint-Germain supporters towards disabled fans of Chelsea,” UEFA said.
Disabled fans’ rights campaigners hailed the announcement.
“We welcome the determined decision taken by UEFA which sends a clear message to all clubs that abuse of disabled fans will not be tolerated,” Joyce Cook, head of the Centre for Access to Football in Europe said in a statement emailed to AFP.
The sanction applies to the next European club competition match in which PSG play as hosts.
The Parisians have an automatic berth in the group stage of this season’s Champions League and therefore go into action in September.
During the April 2 first-leg quarter-final — in which PSG beat the Londoners 3-1 — a group of disabled Chelsea fans were seated among the home supporters due to a lack of facilities in the visitors’ stands.
- hail of abuse -
They were subjected to a hail of abuse, spat on, and pelted with plastic bottles.
“It seemed like I was sitting in hell and it was something that I had no control over,” Chelsea supporter Lisa Hayden, a wheelchair user, recently told the BBC.
“I felt no-one had our backs: there were 10 of us and thousands of them and I didn’t think we were going to get out of there,” she added.
Chelsea won the April 8 second leg at Stamford Bridge 2-0, ejecting PSG due to the away goals rule.
In May, Mike Penning, then Britain’s disabilities minister, called on UEFA to consider throwing PSG out of this season’s Champions League.
He also pointed to the problem of seating for supporters with disabilities, which has likewise been flagged up at several English Premier League clubs.
“Disabled fans are fans and they shouldn’t be treated any differently. They should be sat with their own fans and be able to enjoy the game like everyone else,” Penning, now the policing minister, told the BBC at the time.
On Tuesday, campaigner Cook said the UEFA decision was a timely wake-up call for football.
“This was a particularly unpleasant incident with the Chelsea disabled fans abused and threatened by a minority of home fans whom they were confronted by based on being in the wrong place through no fault of their own,” she said.
“This could have happened at a number of European clubs where disabled away fans have no choice but to sit with the opposing home fans,” she said.
She said it was discrimination to provide disabled fans with a “lesser experience” at matches, all the more so when it left them “vulnerable and subject to abuse purely because they are disabled”.
The Parc des Princes is one of the stadiums due to hold games at Euro 2016 when France hosts the flagship international tournament.
Cook said that “significant access improvements” were already in the pipeline there.