A total of 1,740 fans with functional diversity attended the game at the Estadio Benito Villamarín, which is the new world record as it surpassed the 1,078 who attended the stadium of Polish side Śląsk Wrocław in 2018.

Los Verdiblancos worked with Integrated Dreams and World Football Summit to run various initiatives during Real Betis vs Real Valladolid in order to highlight and show that everybody can enjoy a football match.

Football can be an amplifier for many things, including promoting the inclusion of people with disabilities. In this way, Real Betis were at the centre of an important moment in the history of sport and football, thanks to the club’s campaign to bring the largest ever number of people with functional diversity to a football stadium for the same event. Thanks to the support of Integrated Dreams and World Football Summit, who also collaborated in this project, Los Verdiblancos were able to host the most inclusive match ever, setting a record that will guide the way forward for the future.

The match that has gone down in history as the one with the highest number of people with functional disabilities in a stadium was the recent Real Betis vs Real Valladolid game. A total of 1,740 fans with functional diversity gathered at the Estadio Benito Villamarín to attend the match and break the previous world record, which had been set at an official Polish league match held at Śląsk Wrocław’s stadium, bringing together 1,078 people with disabilities.

Word quickly spread about Real Betis’ initiative, which aimed to mark a before and after for the full inclusion of everyone. The many people who heard about it didn’t want to miss this historic event and came from far and wide. In the words of Pilar Castillo, the head of the Real Betis Disability Department: “We welcomed fans with functional diversity to the most inclusive match in the world, and some even came from countries such as Portugal and other cities in Spain. The festive atmosphere we experienced that day and the happy faces of the fans have encouraged us to continue working hard.”

Real Betis, Integrated Dreams and World Football Summit united to promote inclusion

Real Betis have been holding a ‘Disability Match’ in December for six seasons now, as the 3rd day of that month is International Disability Day. Leading up to the match, the club always carry out a range of initiatives to help make the group of people with functional diversity more visible, to raise awareness of their needs and to try to eliminate barriers.

This year, the club wanted to go to the next level and to promote this match on a more worldwide scale. To help the club with this, both Integrated Dreams and World Football Summit helped to spread the word and organise the various actions. Not only did they help with the inclusive activities held in the vicinity of the stadium before the match for the elderly, youngsters and children, but these organisations also provided support with a number of initiatives, such as one in which the Real Betis players who walked out on to the pitch wore shirts with the names and numbers in braille. 

In addition, the bibs used during the warm-up were printed with the ColorADD code, which represents the different shades of colours with symbols so that they can be identified by colour-blind people. As well as that, the players were accompanied by children with functional diversity, something Real Betis organise every year for their ‘Disability Match’.

At half-time of the game, some players from the Flamencos Amputados Sur CF team. An Andalusian football team made up of amputees – took part in an activity on the pitch. Another special moment of the match came when the anthem was interpreted in sign language from various different parts of the pitch.

Castillo added: “This inclusive match can also serve as inspiration for other clubs around the world. We want to make sporting events barrier-free and 100% accessible for everyone.”

At Real Betis, they also understand that these actions, which are carried out primarily to achieve the objective of fully including people with functional diversity, can also help to position Real Betis as a role model club for having a strong social commitment. This isn’t only seen in the area of disability. But also through Real Betis’ commitment to the environment or to people and children with lower economic resources. At the club, there are various programmes centred around inclusion through football.

Real Betis have 1,318 season ticket holders with functional diversity and 54 in wheelchairs

In May 2022, Real Betis had 1,233 season ticket holders with functional diversity and 52 in wheelchairs and, thanks to the club’s social commitment and the work of the Disability Department, this number continues to grow. The club stated: “We currently have 1,318 season ticket holders with functional diversity and 54 in wheelchairs. They tell us that they’re delighted with the actions we carry out with the most inclusive match and that they’re proud that the name of Real Betis is being mentioned around the world in the context of the club’s work to improve the experience of people with disabilities.”

Even with all this progress, Real Betis don’t want to rest on their laurels. As they will keep working towards full inclusion. The club said: “We still have a long way to go to achieve full inclusion of fans on matchdays. We are working on it.”

As well as this specific event, Los Verdiblancos have been taking steps to improve the experience of fans with functional diversity thanks to the Disability Department, as they are one of few clubs to have this kind of specialised department. Castillo explained: “We have been improving access to the Estadio Benito Villamarín and incorporating services such as the sensory kit for people with autism. The ‘We accompany you to your seat’ scheme for people with mobility or orientation problems and the creation of a specific volunteer corps to help people with disabilities, among others.”

During the current season, Real Betis also incorporated an audio description service so that visually impaired people can follow the matches in detail. This service is being made possible thanks to the Audio Description of Sports Events course that Real Betis has promoted with a university in Seville. All these initiatives are marking out the path towards total inclusion and are helping ensure everyone can enjoy a football match in the same way.

For more updates, follow Khel Now on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and join our community on Telegram.