Disabled Pompey fans call for improvements to Fratton Park stands
DISABLED Pompey fans are at risk of becoming the '˜forgotten supporters' of the club if cash isn't pumped into improvements at Fratton Park.
That’s the message from bosses at the Pompey’s Disabled Supporters’ Association.
Sam Piggott, founder of the group, claimed not enough had been done to improve the state of ‘embarrassing’ facilities for wheelchair users over the past few years.
She said Fratton Park had nowhere near enough spaces for the disabled and that the areas some fans are able to sit in were inadequate.
In a public meeting with heads of the Pompey Supporters’ Trust, she said some disabled supporters were being left to sit in lashing rain during matches as there was not enough overhead cover.
And she also appealed for more action to be taken to provide away game transportation for disabled fans and more accessible catering facilities.
Speaking to The News, Mrs Piggott said: ‘It is embarrassing. Yes we are in the minority but there are nowhere near enough spaces for us.
‘People are passing away waiting for a season ticket. This is heartbreaking for us.
‘What chance do the next generation of wheelchair users and fans have if things aren’t fixed?’
Mrs Piggott claimed the club was meant to have a minimum of 140 spaces for disabled fans; 119 seats for home crowds and 21 for away fans.
But she said in reality, only 40 per cent of required seating was available with a shortfall of 81 spaces.
A lack of stadium improvements means some disabled fans will have to be rehoused elsewhere in Fratton Park next season, she added.
The concerns come amid on-going takeover talks between the club and American billionaire Michael Eisner.
Mrs Piggott welcomed Mr Eisner’s bid and said his cash could kick-start the boost the club needs.
‘At the moment we’re being told by the trust there isn’t enough money for the improvements,’ she said.
‘Whatever happens (with the takeover) we have got to understand that this is not a small number of people making a fuss.
‘This is a duty and responsibility the club has to take on.
‘Do I think that everything will be fixed overnight? Of course it won’t.’
Speaking during a recent meeting at Guildhall, Pompey Supporters’ Trust chairman Ashley Brown said there weren’t ‘significant funds to do something major’.
He said: ‘I very much hope if Michael Eisner takes over he does something very significant for the disabled fans.
‘We have tried to do what we can and have made improvements.
‘I know that they’re not enough. If we continue in ownership we will continue to do what we can.’
Pompey does have a series of proposed improvements due to take place this summer.
This includes new accessible toilet facilities and a disabled liaison office in the North stand and a low-level catering facility in the Fratton end.
It has previously done work to improve surfaces for wheelchair users.