Disability rights groups have welcomed the government’s U-turn on allowing “clinically extremely vulnerable” people to attend test events such as the World Snooker Championships in Sheffield.
Initially, those in the “clinically extremely vulnerable” category were prohibited from attending test events under the government’s Events Research Programme (ERP).
The ERP is studying the risk of Covid-19 transmission at nine large-scale public events across the U.K., including last week’s full-capacity club night in Liverpool and the FA Cup semi-finals as well as the snooker championships held at the Crucible.
Campaign groups such as Level Playing Field, a charity that seeks to extend disabled people’s access to sporting events, were outraged by the original plans to exclude those with disabilities.
The group noticed a warning on the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) website earlier this month saying fans were told by email: “Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to allow you to attend this event if you are classed as clinically extremely vulnerable, pregnant or living with somebody who falls within these categories.”
That led to the organisation writing an open letter condemning the WPBSA and the ERP for “an attack on freedom of choice and human rights.”
Chair of Level Playing Field Tony Taylor said “Sadly, from what we have seen so far, The World Snooker Championship has decided to take away that freedom to people they deem as ‘vulnerable’.
“They have taken away the free will of a person to decide if an event is safe for them or not. This should always be a personal choice and not one that openly discriminates against vulnerable people.”
Following pressure from a number of charities, the government was forced into a U-turn that would allow those classed as clinically extremely vulnerable to attend test events.
That meant those in the clinically extremely vulnerable category were able to attend last night’s World Snooker Championship final between Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy.
Level Playing Field said: “The policy change will no longer exclude CEV people from attending government test events and, in its place, will empower CEV fans to make their own decisions and risk assessments, which they have done throughout this pandemic and life.”
“This decision is the correct one, and this exclusion should never have been in place at the start. Having the right to choose how you live your life is a fundamental human right.
“The original government guidance had the potential to set live sport on a dangerous path of exclusion and discrimination.”