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Wembley architect: Safe standing is no problem

This is a story from the FSF archive – the FSF and Supporters Direct merged to become the FSA in 2019 – so this page may contain hyperlinks that do not work and/or have missing files. Our archived pages are not maintained and will not be updated.

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One of the world’s leading stadium architects has backed safe standing and stated it can be done “without any problems at all”. John Barrow is senior principal at renowned architects Populous and played a key role in designing Wembley Stadium. The firm also designed stadiums for Euro 2004 as well as Soccer City in Johannesburg which hosted the 2010 World Cup final.

Barrow made the comments while speaking at the International Football Arena conference, an event described by the Financial Times as “an annual conference for the unseen rich men who run football”.

“We as designers have no problem with standing at all. It would clearly need to be legislated for, managed, and safely stewarded, but in terms of safety it can be done without any problems at all in small areas,” said Barrow.

In Germany clubs such as Bayern Munich incorporate “small” safe standing areas of approximately 1,500 people into larger stands. As these individual pockets are repeated across an entire stand this gives the sensation of being a single entity in a larger standing area. This adds to the atmosphere immeasurably and ensures supporter safety.

Barrow: “It has to be properly managed, you need more stewards, and the family areas have to be properly segregated so that families feel secure. You also have to make sure that the spectators behind continue to have an uninterrupted view.”

“It is great to have standing areas. They increase excitement in stadiums, particularly behind the goals. If the legislation is there to allow the top clubs to have standing areas again, it could help the clubs who are looking to expand capacity and allow more young people in.”

Barrow is the latest significant figure to back the introduction of safe standing areas. Back in June Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis said he was “open” to the possibility of safe standing areas at the Emirates and acknowledged the positive impact it could have on atmosphere.

In the same month Professor Steve Frosdick, founder member of the UK Football Safety Officers’ Association (FSOA) and noted expert in crowd safety, backed the FSF’s campaign at a specially arranged event in Liverpool. Current FSOA president Jim Chalmers has also said “there is no reason why safe standing cannot exist in our top two divisions if there is a will to allow this at government level”.

The FSF’s Safe Standing Campaign has also received support from the world of politics with Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster submitting a Private Members Bill to the House of Commons calling for the introduction of safe standing areas. Even cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell, a Manchester United fan and the country’s most senior civil servant, backs safe standing.

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