Introduction

Over the last 30+ years Phil Downs has successfully propelled the profile and perception of disabled football fans beyond all recognition. Phil was the founder of MUDSA (Manchester United Disabled Supporters Association), the first of its kind and most successful in the world. Nationally recognised, Phil was also co‐founder of the National Association of Disabled Supporters (now Level Playing Field) and the growing international reputation still drives the momentum of these organisations.

Now a founder member of Estadio Accesible, Phil hopes to share his knowledge and expertise to help the Spanish clubs (and beyond) to achieve full accessibility for their fans with disabilities.

Phil’s progressive style derives from a life changing injury and led him to being recognised as an expert in equality legislation. Phil is a frequent contributor to academic publications and also receives invitations as a speaker to international conferences. Phil’s work was recognised by Her Majesty the Queen awarding him an MBE in 2004.

Career Summary

2019 – Present. Board Member of Estadio Accesible, Spain
2019 – Present. Member of the British Standards Institute
2018 – Present. Creator of Future Didsbury (CIC)
2017 – Present. Managing Director of Affinity Design Holidays Ltd
2016 – Present. Managing Director of PJ Downs & Associates Ltd
2016 – The contribution of Phil Downs to MUFC was recognised by MUFC with the installation of a plaque in the Manchester United Ability Suite which was renamed the ‘Phil Downs Ability Suite’. Phil Downs is the only person to be given an honour such as this by Manchester United who hasn’t played for or managed the Club.
2016 – Present. Access Consultant to Manchester United FC
2016 – Present. Co‐Patron of MUDSA
2006 – Present. Researcher and author. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
1985 – Present. Independent Consultant/Advisor
1983 – Present. Trustee and non‐executive Director of Disabled Living
1991 – 2016. Disability Liaison Officer (Manchester United FC)
1989 – 2016. MUDSA Founder and Secretary (Manchester United FC)
2010 – 2012. Olympics. Advisor to Olympic Delivery Authority (Legacy)
2007 – 2010. Board Member. The FA Disability Equality Advisory Group.
2005 – 2008. Board Member. Scope (UK Disability Charity)
2004 – Awarded Membership of the British Empire for Services to Disabled People
2003 – Manchester United Ability Suite (an investment by Manchester and Vodaphone) was opened in April this year.
1995 – 2007. Co‐Founder & Chair. National Association of Disabled Supporters (NADS, now Level Playing Field)
2002 – 2006. Advisor to Stadium Safety Committee. Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)
1985 – 2004. Independent Consultant/Advisor
1990 – 2001. Private Consultancy (Para‐Legal, Expert Witness)

Employment

2019 – Present. Board Member of Estadio Accesible, Spain

A consortium/partnership has been formed in Spain to assist clubs and fans with disabilities to make progress in providing a minimum standard for fans with disabilities when attending football matches or at any large venue capable of holding a multiplicity of events.

2019 – Present. Member of British Standards Institute

BSI a maxim of ‘…making excellence a habit’ and Phil relies on the relevant standards of the Institute to inform his projects. Access and Inclusion around the built environment is an ongoing topic but working with the required standard provides reassurance to clients.

2018 – Present. Creator of Future Didsbury (CIC)

After establishing PJ Downs Assoc Ltd, Future Didsbury was born out of the ever‐present desire to improve access for disabled and older people. Together with local groups, Phil has created a forward thinking organisation which already bears fruit with more and more facilities being added to the village where he lives.

2017 – Present. Managing Director of Affinity Design Holidays Ltd

Following years of failing to find suitable accommodation that could be defined as truly accessible, Phil decided to establish his own company, built a villa and equipped it with every item of equipment a high‐dependency disabled person might need, including pool hoist. This is rented to other people with high level disabilities and at an accessible price too.

2016 – Present. Managing Director of PJ Downs & Associates Ltd

After leaving his position as Manchester United’s Disability Liaison Officer, Phil established his own consultancy based around ‘operational access and design’. This was very much a large part of his DLO experience going through four reconfigurations of the Old Trafford Stadium as it is now.

2016 – Present. Access Consultant to Manchester United FC

As the Manchester United Access Consultant, Phil has been engaged in developing access protocols around the matchday experience. This would include the holistic journey sequence of first trying to buy tickets all the way through seeing the game, heading home and joining the social media platforms post‐match.

2016 – Present. Co-Patron of MUDSA

As Co‐Patron of MUDSA alongside Sir Alex Ferguson, Phil regularly attends MUDSA events and the first team matches. Phil’s duties are to support MUDSA in whichever way is required.

2006 – Present. Researcher and author. Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

Phil and Juan Luis Paramio‐Salcines met in 2006 on the occasion that Juan visited Old Trafford to view the already world‐renowned facilities for fans with disabilities. In partnership, experts in the field, Phil and Juan have focused on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in football and the ways in which clubs engage with their fans with disabilities and their immediate community. This has been the beginning of a long partnership. Dr. Juan Paramio‐Salcines and Phil have worked together to produce several papers/publications noted below.

1985 – Present. Independent Consultant/Advisor.

Phil has acted as an independent consultant/advisor to a number of public bodies, including:

  • Manchester Airport Accessibility Forum (MAAF)
  • Manchester Telecommunications Advisory Committee
  • Manchester Post Office Advisory Committee
  • South Manchester Community Health Council
  • Patient Council, South Manchester University NHS Hospitals Trust (Vice Chair)
  • Manchester Health Authority (reconfiguration of Primary Care and Rehabilitation Services)
  • Fair Access Group, South Manchester University NHS Hospitals Trust
  • South Manchester Primary Care Trust
  • Social Policy Research Unit, York University
  • Social Services Inspectorate (Direct Payments)
  • Humanitarian City, Sultan Bin Abduaziz, Saudi Arabia (Rehabilitation Networks)

1983 – Present. Trustee & Non-Executive Director.

Phil is a trustee and non‐executive director of the charity Disabled Living. This charity was founded in 1897 and operates on an annual budget in excess of £800,000.

1980 – Present. (Design for Disability).

Design has been a major part of Phil’s consultancy operations.

These vary from:

  • room design for high dependency disabled people in convalescent homes • designing and developing transfer equipment
  • designing and developing page turners
  • designing a multi‐purpose chair/lounger
  • developing a lightweight carbon fibre hoist

1989 – 2016. MUDSA Founder and Secretary (Manchester United FC).

Phil founded MUDSA, the first organisation of its kind in Europe. Over this period, Phil became the Disability Liaison Officer for Manchester United in 1991 before the term was adopted by the Premier League.

1991 – 2016. Disability Liaison Officer (Manchester United FC).

Phil’s responsibilities as Disability Liaison Officer included:

  • Point of contact for the Club, disabled supporters and external bodies.
  • Defining operational structures to improve the working of the stadium.
  • Responsible for communicating compliance issues relating to building regulations and  equality legislation.
  • Responsible for ‘person centred’ assessment of need re appropriate seating for disabled fans.
  • Contribute to match day ticketing re all generic disabilities.
  • ‘Designated person’, safeguarding and protection of vulnerable children and adults.
  • Input to the development of staff training programmes.
  • Forecasting accessibility requirements within a 20‐year timeframe re impact on operational processes.
  • Ability Suite coordinator.
  • Maintaining the outflow of information to disabled members.

2007 – 2012. Olympics. Advisor to Olympic Delivery Authority (Legacy).

Phil was approached by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) in 2007 to advise on multiple aspects of bringing together the 2012 London Olympic Games. The advice required related to a basic skills qualification for potential volunteers and the legacy aspects/function of the venues.

2007 – 2010. Board Member. The FA Disability Equality Advisory Group.

Phil was invited onto the most senior disabled supporters’ advisory group formed by the FA. This group determined FA policy relating to disability sport participation.

2005 – 2008. Board Member. Scope (UK Disability Charity).

Phil was invited on to Scope’s North West Development Board in the capacity of raising the profile of disabled people in the North West.

2004 – Awarded Membership of the British Empire for Services to Disabled People

Awarded in recognition of years of serving the cause of disabled people and their right to equal access across the spectrum of employment, housing, leisure and access to statutory services.

1995 – 2007. Co-Founder & Chair. National Association of Disabled Supporters (NADS, now Level Playing Field).

Phil was a founding member and Chair (2002‐2007) of the National Association of Disabled Supporters (NADS now renamed Level Playing Field – LPF).

Objectives attained:

  • Designed and developed NADS principal policies
  • Designed and developed the NADS template audit document
  • Commissioned and advised on the development of the NADS website
  • Key participant in developing and producing the ‘Accessible Stadia’ guide
  • Initiated a nationwide disability awareness campaign known as ‘Level Playing Field’
  • Advised Millennium Stadium staff regarding retrofit due to design deficits
  • Advised Wembley National Stadium Ltd on the design of the ‘New Wembley’ through the Office of the Prime Minister

2002 – 2006. Advisor to Stadium Safety and Security Committee, UEFA (Union of European Football Associations).

Phil was invited by the Chair and Director of UEFA Stadium Safety and Security Committee to develop a UEFA policy for disabled supporters and developed the original thinking around CAFE (Centre for Accessible Football in Europe).

1990 – 2001. Private Consultancy (Legal).

Phil provided Expert Witness Reports (Rehabilitation) to lawyers engaged in constructing the quantum in claims for compensation.

1990 – 1999. Speaker/Presenter.

Independent Lives: Phil was engaged as a speaker/presenter for the Social Services Inspectorate in providing information and advice to Local Authorities regarding Direct Payments Legislation.

Inspiring Others: Phil was invited by the Manchester Health Commission to provide motivational presentations explaining the means and methods of providing accessible features in public places; mainly large venues. He has also given inspirational talks in schools and to various local community groups.

Education

Altrincham Grammar School for Boys: 1967‐1972 5 ‘O’ Levels.

Phil joined the Police Cadets in Hendon, London at the age of 16 but his career was abruptly ended when he broke his neck in an accident at the age of 18 and was left paralysed from the shoulders down.

MBS: 1998/99 Certificate in the Institute of Managers and Supervisors.

Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE)

Phil was awarded an MBE in Her Majesty the Queen’s Birthday Honours’ List 2004 for services to disabled people.

Academic Publications and Presentations
Paramio Salcines, J.L., Downs, P. and Grady, J. (2016) Football and its Communities: The Celebration of Manchester United ́s Ability Suite, Soccer and Society, 17, 5, 770‐791, DOI:10.1080/14660970.2015.1100435.

Paramio Salcines, J.L., Grady, J. and Downs, P. (2014) Growing the Football Game: The Increasing Economic and Social Relevance of Older Fans and Those with Disabilities in the European Football Industry, Soccer and Society, 15, 6, 864‐882. DOI:10.1080/14660970.2014.920623.

Downs, P.J. and Paramio Salcines, J.L (2013) Incorporating Accessibility and Disability in the Manchester United culture and organization as part of their CSR policies, in Paramio Salcines, J.L., Babiak, K. and Walters, G. (eds.) Routledge Handbook of Sport and Corporate Social Responsibility, Routledge: London, pp. 135‐146.

Paramio Salcines, J.L. (2011) Interview with Phil Downs, Managing Sport, 1‐17, Available at: http://www.managingsport.com/files/MgSport‐ Interview%20Phil%20Downs%20by%20Juan%20Luis%20Paramio.pdf

Downs, P.J. (2006) Joining Forces, Gazette; 9.3

Peer Review Book Chapters
Paramio‐Salcines, J.L, Kitchin, P. and Downs, P. (2018) Promoting Accessibility for Disabled and Older Fans to European Stadia: An Holistic Journey Sequence Approach (HOPES), en Hassan, D. (ed) Managing Sport Business: An Introduction (2nd Edition), Abingdon, Routledge, pp. 530‐560. ISBN: 978‐1‐138‐29136‐2.

Paramio Salcines, J.L., Downs, P. and Grady, J. (2018) Football and its communities: the celebration of Manchester United FC’s Ability Suite, en Porter, C., May, A. and Kiernan, A. (Eds) Football, Community and Sustainability, Abingdon, Routledge, pp. 110‐132. ISBN 9781138083660.

Paramio Salcines, J.L., Grady, J. and Downs, P. (2015) Growing the Football Game: The Increasing Economic and Social Relevance of Older Fans and Those with Disabilities in the European Football Industry, in Parnell, D. y Richardson, D. (eds) Football, Community and Social Inclusion, Abingdon, Routledge, pp. 42‐60. ISBN: 978‐1‐13‐885591‐5.

Downs, P. and Paramio‐Salcines, J.L. (2013) Incorporating Accessibility and Disability in the Manchester United culture and organization as part of their CSR policies, in Paramio Salcines, J. L., Babiak, K. y Walters, G. (eds) Routledge Handbook of Sport and Corporate Social Responsibility, Abingdon, Routledge, 135‐146.

International Conferences
Grady, J., Paramio‐Salcines, J.L., Downs, P., Ruiz‐Barquín, R. and de la Vega, R. (2014) Enhancing the customer experience for spectators with disabilities: The case of Manchester United FC ́s Ability Suite, World Association for Sport Management Inaugural World Conference, 2 October, Madrid, Spain.

Downs, P., Paramio‐Salcines, J.L., and Grady, J. (2014) Celebrating 10 years of Manchester United ́s Ability Suite: From Organizational Buy‐In to Premium Patron Services, LEAD Conference, Chicago, US, 5 August.

Grady, J., Paramio‐Salcines, J.L., Breitbarth, T. and Downs, P. (2014) Growing the Football Game: The Increasing Economic and Social Relevance of Older Fans and those with Disabilities in the European Football Industry, North American Society for Sport Management Conference (NASSM), 30 May, Pittsburg, USA. http://www.nassm.com/files/conf_abstracts/2014‐ 090.pdf.

Paramio Salcines, J.L. and Downs, P. (2013) Accessibility and Disability CSR policies in Football: The case of Manchester United FC, 21o EASM Conference Sport Management for Quality of Life, Estambul, 12 Septiembre.

Downs, P. and Paramio Salcines, J.L. (2013) Incorporating Accessibility and Disability in the Manchester culture and organisation as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility policies, MMUC Football, Community and Sustainability, Manchester, 13 June.

Paramio, J.L., Campos, C., Downs, P., Beotas, E. y Muñoz, G. (2009) ‘The Accessible Stadium project in the First Spanish football division’. 21st IAKS Congress, International Congress for the Design, Construction, Modernization and Management of Sports and Leisure Facilities, Colonia, Germany, 30 October.

Paramio, J.L., Campos, C., Downs, P., Beotas, E. y Muñoz, G. (2009) ‘Disability Provision in European stadia within a CSR framework: The case of Primera Division‐Spanish Football League’. Congress ‘Best Practices in Sport Facility and Event Management’, Amsterdam, 18 September.

Other Outputs-Research Reports
Paramio Salcines, J.L, Beotas, E., Campos, C., Downs, P. and Muñoz, G. (2009) Plan Estratégico de Mejora de los Estadios en España 2009‐2014 (Strategic Plan for the Improvement of Accessibility of Stadiums in Spain 2009‐2014), Report submitted to the Spanish Professional League (LFP) and Spanish Sport Council (CSD).

Photos

The MUDSA era

Video

Renaming of the Ability Suite as the Phil Downs Ability Suite to mark 27 years’ service to Manchester United

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