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Sports minister’s “mind is open” on standing as review launched

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and SD merged to become the FSA in 2019.

Above – MPs in Westminster Hall debate standing at football

Sports minister Tracey Crouch yesterday (Monday 25th June 2018) told MPs that her “mind is open” to standing at football in a well-attended Westminster Hall debate, featuring around 50 MPs.

In a three-hour session MPs from all sides of the House shared their experiences with the vast majority of contributions being firmly in favour of reviewing existing legislation.

The sports minister said the Government would work with the football authorities to identify any gaps in data which might exist relating to injuries in all-seater stadiums. The initial analysis is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Crouch said: “The one thing we need to do is to collect and analyse the evidence that exists and ensure that all views on this issue can be heard and considered before we make any decision on changes to the all-seater policy—a point that many Honourable Members have made today.

“We need proper evidence and solutions about how risks associated with standing would be addressed and what systems might be needed to achieve this. The first step is to gather that data and to conduct further research if necessary.”

Encouragingly the minister also acknowledged the importance of fan groups as stakeholders and said she would look at other areas of interest to supporters.

“I acknowledge the evolution of stadium design, seating technology and modern crowd management approaches that has taken place in recent years,” Crouch said.

“The data-gathering work will look at the impact of those changes and consider any existing data on the wider impact of introducing the type of rail seating accommodation used in Germany and elsewhere on attendances, ticket prices, the atmosphere, the diversity of supporters, fan behaviour, the management of various parts of the stadiums and, of course, safety.”

Support for standing at football was cross-party with members on all sides speaking in favour, with very few exceptions. Shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan has been very supportive of the campaign and the Labour Party has recently changed its position thanks to that support.

She reiterated that safety must be at the heart of the debate and said she had been very impressed by what she had seen on the other side of the Atlantic where standing areas were both safe and inclusive.

“It is vital to understand and acknowledge that it is not a step back for football or a return to the terraces of the ’80s. It is the opposite,” Dr Allin-Khan said. “It is about moving football spectating forward and into a new era—into the future—so that it becomes safer, more inclusive and gives fans this choice.

“More than 50 representatives from supporter groups joined me at my parliamentary roundtable, where I heard about a fantastic example of safe standing being used in Orlando. It is an inclusive area that puts wheelchair users at the heart of the action—not seeing them as an afterthought.

“They are in among the crowd and can experience football along with every other fan. It is a fantastic example of how safe standing can make football more inclusive for all.”

The debate came about following a petition started by 17-year-old Owen Riches which was signed by 112,000 people, making it one of the most popular Parliament petitions this year. Owen was at the debate.

  • You can watch yesterday’s Parliamentary debate here or read a full transcript here

What does the FSF think?

Fans will look forward to seeing the detail of the review and it is encouraging that there’s a commitment to working with supporters groups alongside the football authorities.

This isn’t an issue that is going to go away. Supporters back the choice to sit or stand as standing is so central to generating the best possible atmosphere at football.

The sports minister also acknowledged she has been wrong to portray fans campaigning for standing as being a minority voice but said she had been scarred by some social media abuse which was beyond the pale.

The FSF encourages members to argue passionately and with persistence – but keep it polite. There is no excuse for personal abuse, sexism or threats of violence, and any current FSF member who behaves in such a manner will be expelled.

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