Above – Standing at MLS club Orlando City (Pic – Steve Powell)
Stand Up For Choice
In the 100 years leading up to the Taylor Report the majority of fans watched football from a standing position and, in the decades since, it has never gone away, despite the attempts of the authorities to introduce all-seater stadia.
The demand for standing has increased in recent years and is never likely to go away because standing ends tend to generate more noise. And football fans love a proper, rollicking atmosphere. It’s one of the reasons we fall in love with the game.
Fans should not be punished for standing and there is no evidence to suggest that standing is inherently unsafe. Repeated attempts to force supporters to sit since 1991 have not only failed but also created conflict between the authorities and matchgoers. The FSA opposes any clampdown aimed at supporters engaging in persistent standing.
However, not all fans want or are able to stand at the match. Supporters standing in front of those who prefer to sit is a significant customer care issue, particularly away from home. The problem is exacerbated by current legislation which makes it very difficult for clubs to manage this in a sensible and pragmatic manner.
The FSA will lobby football authorities and the Government:
- To scrap the existing legislation and ground rules that penalise supporters for standing at football and engender conflict amongst and against fans;
- To replace them with a system that allows individual clubs and their SAGs to work together to develop appropriate stewarding plans based on sound and rigorous dynamic risk assessment;
- To allow the creation of purpose built standing areas. We believe there are a number of alternative technologies that will allow clubs to create such areas, and it is up to clubs individually — in consultation with their supporters — to decide what mix of standing areas, permitted standing in existing seated areas and seated areas is right for them.
The FSA will coordinate activity among our individual members and fan groups to demonstrate support for the Stand Up For Choice campaign and highlight the problems caused by the existing status quo.
We will continue to engage positively and proactivity with all stakeholders in the debate, including individual fans, our network of trusts and affiliates and other supporters’ organisations, football clubs, the Football Association (FA), the English Football League (EFL), the Premier League, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA), Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s (DCMS), and the police.
What is the current situation?
The Football Spectators Act 1989, amended after the 1991 Taylor Report, requires football stadia in the top two divisions to be all-seater (with temporary exemptions for clubs promoted to the Championship). The SGSA definition of persistent standing, which is not allowed, is “when individuals in seated areas stand for prolonged periods other than in moments of excitement”. The enforcement of ground regulations are monitored jointly between clubs and their Local Authority Safety Advisory Groups (SAGs). We’d like to see fan groups engaged by SAGs.
Are the authorities views changing?
In June 2018 then sports minister Tracey Crouch told MPs that her “mind is open” to standing at football in a well-attended Westminster Hall debate, featuring around 50 MPs. Crouch 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.
We are still awaiting the result of that work which will be significant in defining the next steps for the campaign. In the interim period the FSA has continued to lobby politically and appear at events such as the Sports Ground Safety Authority’s Annual Conference where we spoke in favour of standing to a sympatheic audience made up largely of safety officers from clubs.
Our Stand Up For Choice campaign is ran in conjunction with the EFL and they are very supportive of the choice to sit or stand at matches. The Premier League’s position is more complex although they are no longer philosophically opposed to standing at football, and are keen to see the evidence from the DCMS review. Then FA chair Greg Clarke publicly supported standing in November 2016.
Under Michel Platini UEFA maintained a mandatory all-seater policy for all UEFA competition matches, irrespective of whether it is allowed in domestic competition. There are some signs this may change now Platini has gone, although it is likely to take some time.
When fans think of standing areas most will think of modern terraces or rail seats, but other technologies do exist. An interesting example of that is the 2020 Seating which has been installed at Wycombe Wanderers and “enables supporters to choose to stand or sit without having an obscured view of the pitch”. Michael Cunnah of producers Grand Stand Seating Ltd says the seats “eliminate the problems associated with persistent standing”.
Across in Germany Hamburg’s AOL Arena includes 10,000 standing spaces with seats which foldaway under the stand when required. It isn’t possible to retrofit such technology into existing stands but it is an example of what can be designed, should the law permit standing areas. The FSA is neutral on what is the “best” technology, although we do believe clubs should consult with their own supporters to see what they think would work best at their club.
You can also follow the latest standing related news here.