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Safe Standing Bill launched in Parliament

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Don Foster MP, former Liberal Democrats sports spokesman, has launched a bid to allow safe standing to be introduced into football grounds in England and Wales. Speaking yesterday the Bath MP launched his Safe Standing Bill by telling Parliament that there was no evidence to show that properly designed standing areas were inherently unsafe.

The bill would give all football clubs “the freedom to build, or maintain existing, safe standing sections in their stadia if they choose” in an established framework of minimum safety criteria. MPs introduce so-called “10 Minute Rule” bills in order to draw attention to specific issues and they can eventually become law.

Surveys regularly show that nine out of 10 supporters believe they should be given the choice over whether they prefer to stand or sit. Safe standing areas in Germany have also proven to be a great success contributing to both improved atmospheres and cheaper ticket prices as more fans can be accommodated, thus lowering prices.

Opponents of standing areas in Britain often raise the spectre of the Hillsborough disaster. Foster acknowledged this but pointed out that the tragedy of 15th April 1989, and its devastating impact, was not caused by standing.

Foster said: “Lord Taylor’s report into Hillsborough cited many reasons why the disaster occurred. The fact the crowd was standing was not one of those reasons. Rather, it happened as a result of gross overcrowding, a lack of concern for the safety and comfort of spectators, a lack of awareness of existing safety regulation, and the poor design of the old style terraces. The disaster happened because of a culture of negligence, not because standing is inherently unsafe.”

The introduction of safe standing areas into football stadiums in England and Wales would not only benefit those who wish to stand but also those who choose to sit. While Taylor envisaged all fans would eventually accept and prefer seating this has not happened. Thousands of supporters across the country ignore ground regulations game in, game out as they prefer to stand.

“If it can be done safely – and it can be – I believe it would be far better to have a mix of safe seating and safe standing areas in stadia where clubs chose to offer such options. That way, children, families, and those who want a more peaceful experience could have it, while those who want to stand could exercise that right,” he said.

Chris Nash, who heads up the FSF’s Safe Standing campaign also welcomed the bill: “Within the lower leagues, rugby league, and horseracing standing areas are safely available. There’s all sorts of legislation to make them safe and there’s no reason it can’t do in top-level football. Why do we have this quirk whereby clubs in the Premier League and Championship are singled out and treated differently?” At present anti-standing legislation does not apply to Leagues One and Two.

Read Don Foster MP’s Safe Standing Bill in full here.

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