Burnley Football Club has finalised plans to develop Turf Moor and provide better facilities for disabled supporters under the Accessible Stadium Guide (ASG).
The work takes the spending on infrastructure at the club to around £20 million in the past two years, including new office space and a bigger Clarets Store and ticket office at the stadium, and the major uplift to the Barnfield Training Centre.
However, the club has concluded there will be no other ground developments to increase the overall capacity of Turf Moor in the short-term, unless an increase in demand for seats forces a re-think.
Work to bring the club in line with ASG regulations follow a commitment to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which outline minimum requirements at all Premier League grounds.
The club has been given until August 2018 to comply with improved disabled access provisions that include dedicated, covered viewing platforms and new toilet facilities.
Turf Moor will therefore undergo major changes from January 2018, to provide a number of elevated platforms for wheelchair access.
These involve multi-million-pound building projects in two corners of the stadium, between the Jimmy McIlroy stand and both the James Hargreaves and Bob Lord stands, and the relocation of the jumbo screen.
Following this build, a dedicated, indoor ticket office waiting area will then be constructed to complement the existing building and replace the temporary canopy that is currently in situ.
Access to the corner of the stadium for the upcoming ASG build has dictated the timing of this build.
Work to construct the new viewing platforms is expected to take approximately six months and will involve a consultation with a number of fans who may be affected by this work.
Stadium and Operations Manager Doug Metcalfe said:
This is a significant part of our stadium development and is all about providing the right facilities for our disabled supporters here at Turf Moor.
Back in 2015, the Premier League made a commitment that all their member clubs would be compliant to the ASG requirements and our commitment is August, 2018. Within 12 months, we will therefore have a stadium that meets those requirements.
It’s been well documented that our disabled supporter facilities could be better, and we need to provide a view and an environment that is equivalent to the general seating within the stadium.
We are at the end of a design stage now and in both corners of the ground, at either end of the Jimmy McIlroy stand, we are looking at different platform levels, where supporters can enjoy a great view in sheltered surroundings, with easy access, a concession facilities and toilets.
It’s a large and challenging project and this is not about cost, but about doing the right thing. We have embraced this step change and look forward to getting going in the new year, with a six-to-seven month build time.
With regard to the new ticket office waiting area, Metcalfe added:
The plan was to retain the temporary structure as a short-term solution until we complete the infill for the ASG.
We need to provide access in that corner for the construction works, so a permanent indoor area will be built that complements the existing ticket office and will again provide improved facilities for supporters as they queue for tickets.
Chairman Mike Garlick added:
Many Premier League clubs with older stadia have encountered similar challenges in how to logistically deliver on a commitment following this new Equality and Human Rights Commission ruling.
We now feel we have a scheme that will finally offer disabled supporters’ facilities that are on a par with able-bodied supporters. Much hard work has gone on behind the scenes to get to the stage where we can present what we are intending to do in two corners of the stadium in the coming year, but I think it’s appropriate to clarify that no further plans are currently in place.
The two new builds to provide disabled facilities will take our spending on infrastructure, both here at Turf Moor and at Barnfield Training Centre, to over £20m in two years.
In addition, we probably only ‘sell out’ the stadium three or four times in a Premier League season, and you don’t need me to tell you who those games are against.
I know, for example, Watford are looking at increasing the capacity of Vicarage Road by 3 – 4,000, but theirs is a different scenario. My understanding is there is a waiting list of 3,000 supporters for season tickets, so there is clearly a demand for an uplift.
We don’t yet have that luxury, so we do feel the current capacity fits our needs at present. Should that change and we end up locking people out, then it would be remiss of us not to look at that scenario, but as it stands I feel Turf Moor’s current capacity serves us well.
Image: An artist’s impression of the new north east corner of Turf Moor