Post by Premier League News on Feb 15, 2015 11:12:53 GMT
Trials of standing areas at football grounds have moved a step closer and a new survey has shown overwhelming public backing for a change in the supporters’ experience at matches.
The Welsh Assembly has called on the government to take urgent steps towards introducing safe standing, offering to lead the way after passing a motion backing trials and unveiling new research, due to be revealed at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium on Monday, which shows 96% of fans across the UK back the introduction of the sort of rail seats common in Germany that allow fans to stand throughout matches.
Given concerns about the atmosphere in some Premier League grounds and the safety issues created in areas where some fans want to sit and others stand, an increasing number of clubs are in favour of a pilot.
The leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, a campaigner for safe standing who oversaw a cross-party motion last year that made the Assembly the first legislature to formally adopt a “pro standing” position, will attend the event along with the Swansea City chairman, Huw Jenkins.
Manchester City, Aston Villa, Hull City, Sunderland, Crystal Palace and West Ham are among Premier League clubs in favour of exploring the idea. Cardiff City and Swansea both back safe standing areas and Davies is lobbying for Wales to be allowed to be the first part of the British Isles to press ahead with trials.
The survey, in conjunction with the Football Supporters’ Federation, also shows that 84% of fans believe safe standing areas would lessen the likelihood of clashes between stewards and fans.
There is an ongoing debate about whether the introduction of standing areas requires a change in the law, but it remains academic while both the Premier League and the Football Association are opposed to such a move. However, campaigners hope the weight of public opinion and attempts to show that modern rail seats can make standing both comfortable and safe will eventually pay off.
“This is an issue of fairness and football fans deserve to be treated in the same way as supporters of other sports,” said Davies. “While safety has to be the top priority, a pilot would be a sensible way to assess the evidence for reviewing the current all-seater policy and the political will exists in Wales to lead the way on this.It’s time to let us get on with it.”
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport opposes safe standing but the Conservative MP Ken Clarke, quoted in the report, said he could see no reason not to stage trials. “I am quite sure that the coalition government would do nothing to obstruct any sensible innovations and I do realise that there are many football supporters who would prefer to get back to some kind of standing crowd,” he said.
Davies said he would continue to make the case for Wales to lead the way in introducing safe standing. “The clubs back it and our report is further evidence of the demand for standing areas among supporters themselves. Given the cross-party support here in Wales we now have a clear mandate to bring forward a pilot scheme,” he said.
“With the vast sums being pumped into football, and the growing sense that ordinary fans are being priced out of the sport they love, this is an opportunity to give something back. It would be a huge shame to waste it.”
Manchester City fans have been recently displaying a banner calling for safe standing to be legalised, with Chelsea and Arsenal fans among those who have published surveys showing overwhelming support.
Jon Darch, a campaigner who runs a Safe Standing Roadshow to demonstrate the extent to which modern rail seats differ from the crumbling terraces of the past, said he hoped a pilot would follow. “It’s great to see such resounding support for safe standing from fans across the UK and hugely encouraging to see this come via a survey run by a major political party,” he said. “There now seems to be an irresistible demand for a safe standing pilot to be run in Wales and I hope that where the Welsh Conservatives have shown the lead their Westminster counterparts will shortly follow.”
Manchester United have applied to introduce safe-standing at Old Trafford.
The club have made a formal proposal to trial up to 1,500 rail seats after fans urged them to follow the model that has proved so successful in Germany.
They are now waiting on the go-ahead from the local Safety Advisory Group before pressing ahead with plans.
If approved, the trial could begin before the end of the season.
United’s chief operating officer Collette Roche told a recent fans forum that the “club are in favour of rail seating in parts of Old Trafford in principle. “A formal proposal was made to the local Safety Advisory Group in December 2019 to request a trial in a small section of the stadium (up to 1,500 seats in the north east quadrant).
“Our belief is that the introduction of rail seating will enhance spectator safety in areas of the stadium where – as with other clubs – we have seen examples of persistent standing.” United have been proactive in addressing calls for safe standing since Premier League clubs began discussing a move away from all-seater stadiums, which have been compulsory in the top flight since 1994.
They contacted season ticket holders in 2016, asking them to complete a 20-point survey into the matter.
They asked them to identify three preferred areas to introduce rail seating. The north east quadrant has been chosen for the trial, which would see barriers installed in front of seats, allowing fans to stand.
Standing was outlawed after a report into the 1989 Hillsbrough disaster by Lord Justice Taylor.
United have looked at numerous initiatives to improve the atmosphere at Old Trafford – including designated singing sections, which will continue to be trialled next season