A major new campaign has been launched by the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) in conjunction with Roger Godsiff MP and backed by a number of high profile football clubs including Aston Villa and Peterborough United. The campaign calls on the Government to allow small-scale trials of new safe standing areas in the Premier League and Championship.
The FSF, in conjunction with fan-initiated, pro-standing lobby groups Stand Up Sit Down and the Safe Standing Roadshow, have planned a series of initiatives as part of the campaign. Fans can visit the FSF’s website to see how they can support the campaign.
The cornerstone of the activity is Early Day Motion (EDM) 573, submitted by Roger Godsiff MP, which acknowledges the “widespread support” for safe standing technology and recognises the success of safe standing areas throughout Europe, including in Germany’s Bundesliga.
The EDM “urges the Government to accept the case for introducing, on a trial basis, limited standing areas… and calls on the Government to amend the Football Spectators Act 1989 by statutory instrument to allow this pilot to take place.”
If accepted by Secretary of State Maria Miller, this means the introduction of safe standing would not require a complex and time-consuming change to primary legislation.
As well as an online petition for supporters to sign, also in the pipeline is an event for MPs at Parliament in December, where pro-standing representatives from Aston Villa, Peterborough United, the police, local authorities and other key stakeholders will present to MPs the case for a safe standing pilot and demonstrate one form of new technology advocated.
Peter Daykin, Safe Standing Coordinator at the FSF, said:
“For two decades since the Taylor Report, the overwhelming majority of football supporters have favoured a choice of standing and sitting at football, and fans continue to stand throughout all levels of the game today, even in the Premier League and Championship where it is against ground regulations and facilities are designed for sitting.
“This summer the Olympics showed us what sort of an atmosphere sport can generate when fans are embraced and welcomed, not managed and controlled, and while the recent findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel laid out a number of factors contributing to the disaster, primarily poor crowd management, standing wasn’t one of them.
“Standing was outlawed on grounds of safety, and yet successive governments have agreed that standing is safe – it’s hard not to when it is done perfectly safely every week at rugby grounds, lower league football grounds and in top football leagues all around the world.
“The current government cites a lack of demand for standing and issues of crowd management and behaviour as reasons to ban it from football. This is nonsense. The Safe Standing Roadshow has been visiting clubs up and down the country demonstrating how rail seating can work, and privately at least, the response we have had from clubs has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive, with many saying they would introduce safe standing tomorrow if they could.
“We aim to show MPs the high level of demand for safe standing at football, not just from supporters but from clubs, the police and the local authorities all of whom struggle with the unworkable situation that currently exists.
“All we’re asking for is a handful of small-scale trials so that we can have an evidence-based debate about how suitable these new standing areas are for football at the top levels in England and Wales. When in opposition standing at football was something David Cameron promised to look into and we hope he’ll stick to his word.”
Between now and the event at Parliament on 11th December, football supporters will be getting in touch with MPs, explaining the need to trial small safe standing areas and urging as many as possible to get behind the campaign by signing Mr Godsiff’s EDM.
And it’s not just the FSF who are keen on safe standing. Aston Villa, Sunderland, Derby County and Peterborough United have also all expressed their interest in the concept.
Paul Faulkner, Chief Executive of Aston Villa, said:
“We have had a number of good discussions and meetings with the FSF over the past 12 months and fully support their campaign to allow small-scale trials of safe standing areas at grounds.
“Whenever we have discussed the topic with our fans we’ve found almost unanimous support for such a trial, and the concept of giving fans the choice to decide to either sit or stand at a game.
“We believe Villa Park could be a potential venue for such a trial, and would like the opportunity to progress the plans further with the wider support of the football community in this country.”
Bob Symns, Chief Executive of Peterborough United, said:
“If we are talking about spectator safety in the reality of current football stadium usage, and I hope we are, then rail seating is the safe way forward. I travelled to Hannover to see and understand the safe standing option in situ and was very impressed with the physical and safety aspects that were discussed. The additional benefit is that it gives supporters choice.
“We are also undertaking a stadium redevelopment programme here at London Road and can immediately offer ourselves to run a pilot scheme. This would allow the Government, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, the FA, the Premier League, the Football League and all Safety Advisory Groups to assess the implications and benefits of the system.”
Nigel Clough, Manger of Derby County, said:
“A not insignificant number of our fans prefer to watch football standing up, but we currently do not have the opportunity to satisfy this customer preference. Rail seats could provide us with a safe and well-managed means of doing so.”
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