Virgin Media and Scope club together to show disability discrimination the red card

12 May 2017

Southampton FC will play Manchester United FC in a Scope-branded shirt to highlight the issue

Virgin Media and disability charity Scope are teaming up to highlight disability discrimination in football grounds.

New research published today shows that disabled football fans feel excluded from live games. Eight in ten1 who attend football stadiums across the UK say they have experienced some form of discrimination or other issues resulting from their disability.  

As a result, the majority (62%) of these disabled fans said these experiences had stopped them from going to a live match again.

To highlight the issue and to put disabled fans at the heart of the game, the Saints will wear a special Scope-branded shirt for their home match against Manchester United FC on Wednesday 17 May.

Virgin Media, the official shirt sponsor of Southampton FC, is removing its logo from the club’s strip to support its charity partner, Scope, in order to get behind disabled football fans. It forms part of the company’s partnership with the charity to help transform the lives of disabled people.

Virgin Media is the UK’s only TV provider to offer all the football on Sky Sports and BT sports in one package.  Last year, the company became the official shirt sponsor of Southampton FC.  Virgin Media wants all football to be accessible for all fans.

Side-lined in the stands

Today’s survey reveals disabled football fans feel unwelcome in the terraces because of the reception they receive from some non-disabled fans.

The findings show that nearly 40%2 of disabled supporters who go to matches say they have experienced negative attitudes from other fans and 29% said they had been victim of verbal abuse.

Almost two-thirds (62%) of disabled football fans think the football industry needs to do more to prevent this type of discrimination towards disabled people.

This is also backed by a separate poll of non-disabled fans who go to matches, where more than half (52%) think more should be done to prevent discrimination towards disabled people at football matches.

Disabled fans want a better experience

The poll has also found that football clubs could do more to improve the experiences disabled fans have at live games. 

Less than half of disabled fans (43%) said their club had staff who are well trained in disabled fans’ needs, while only 42% said their club had a zero-tolerance statement on abuse, for example, which may cover the use of negative language. More than a third (38%) of disabled fans who go to matches said a lack of appropriate facilities at other stadiums stop them from going to an away game.   

More than half1 of non-disabled football fans think more should be done to make attending football matches more accessible for disabled fans.

Football is for everyone

Virgin Media and Scope are calling on fans, clubs and governing bodies to help improve the experiences of disabled fans at grounds across the UK and deliver everyday equality for disabled people.

Scope’s Chief Executive, Mark Atkinson, said:

> This new research should serve as a wakeup call to all football clubs and fans.

Football is our national game and has the ability to bring people together.  We know that large numbers of fans want everyday equality and that means an inclusive game where discrimination of any kind isn’t tolerated. Disabled fans shouldn’t feel forced out of the stadium.

It’s great to see football teams like Southampton FC highlighting the issue, with the support of Virgin Media who’ve donated their shirt sponsorship to Scope for this match.

The rest of the football industry now needs to work together and kick disability discrimination out of the game.

Brigitte Trafford of Virgin Media commented:

> All football should be enjoyed by all fans, plain and simple.  Fans are the heart of football and that means disabled fans too.

It’s time for change.  In football and society, disability discrimination can and should be a thing of the past.

Gold medal hero backs campaign

The shirt-swap is being backed by Paralympic gold medallist and avid football fan, Richard Whitehead MBE.

Richard will help coach five Southampton supporters for a penalty shoot-out during half time at the match to raise up to £25,000 for Scope. Virgin Media will donate £5,000 to Scope for every goal scored.


1 79% of disabled fans have experienced some form of discrimination or issue resulting from their disability when at a football stadium

2 39% of disabled football fans have experienced negative attitudes from other football fans at a stadium

3 54% of non-disabled fans think more should be done to make attending football matches in Britain more accessible for disabled fans

Notes to editors

  • Survey of disabled fans was carried out online by Opinium between 7 and 9 February with 1,003 respondents.
  • Survey of non-disabled fans was carried out online by YouGov between 8 and 9 February with 2,028 respondents.

About Virgin Media

Virgin Media is the UK’s only TV provider to offer all of the live footballing action from both BT Sport and Sky Sports. The company became the official shirt sponsor of Southampton at the start of the 2016-17 season in a three-year deal.

Virgin Media is working with Scope to help transform the lives of disabled people through a long-term partnership.

Virgin Media offers four multi award-winning services across the UK and Ireland: broadband, TV, mobile phone and landline.


The company’s dedicated, ultrafast network delivers the fastest widely available broadband speeds to homes and businesses. We’re expanding this through our £3bn Project Lightning programme, which will reach 17 million premises.

Our interactive TV service brings live programmes, thousands of hours of on-demand programming and the best apps and games in a set-top box, as well as on-the-go for tablets and smartphones.

We launched the world’s first virtual mobile network, offering fantastic value and services. We are also one of the largest fixed-line home phone providers in the UK and Ireland.

Through Virgin Media Business, we support entrepreneurs, businesses and the public sector, delivering the fastest speeds and tailor-made services.

Virgin Media is part of Liberty Global, the world’s largest international cable company, with operations in more than 30 countries.

About Scope

Scope is a charity that exists to make this country a place where disabled people have the same opportunities as everyone else. The charity focuses on the priorities disabled people have told Scope matter most to them and support disabled people to:

  • Get the best start in life
  • Live the life they choose
  • Be financially secure.

For more information go to

For all Virgin Media press enquiries please contact:  |  0333 000 2900  |  @VirginMediaCorp

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