The Football Supporters’ Federation has launched a petition – visit www.fsf.org.uk/safestanding – as part of a campaign for the introduction of safe standing areas in the top two divisions in England and Wales. We know some of you might think that signing a petition is a bit of a futile gesture, but the timing for the campaign is crucial…
There is currently a bill going through Parliament which faces its second reading in a little under three months time, and for the first time in two decades the Sports Minister has agreed to look at the evidence on safe standing. We have a short timeframe to gather support and prove that there is a groundswell of opinion behind fans’ choice to stand at football in England and Wales. Within a week of launching the petition, nearly 10,000 fans added their voices to our campaign, but we need a great deal more support behind our cause. The more numbers that back our campaign, the stronger our case to the Government and football authorities will be.
There is a great deal of nonsense spoken about standing by the mainstream media and football commentators, and we feel we are constantly fighting an uphill battle. The most common argument is that standing is inherently unsafe. If that is the case, why is it allowed in Leagues One and Two? If standing was truly unsafe, it would be outlawed not only in the lower leagues, but at horseracing, rugby, motorsport and concerts (some of which are held in all-seater football stadiums). Our position is that if standing is safe in the lower leagues, then it must be safe in the top two divisions. We find the idea that safety is dependent upon the quality of football played on the pitch as absolutely absurd, and logically flawed.
Many opponents to standing mistakenly cite Hillsborough as a reason not to allow its introduction. Their argument is that a return to terraces means another Hillsborough disaster is inevitable. The tragic loss of lives in 1989 was not caused by standing; the Taylor Report primarily blamed the failure of police control. It did not ban standing, nor claim it was inherently unsafe. Furthermore, we are not calling for a reintroduction of terraces. Modern safe-standing areas in Germany feature convertible seats, with barriers between every row.
The FSF’s Safe Standing Campaign is also not just about those who prefer to stand. By giving supporters the choice, we think that everyone benefits. Those who wish to stand can do so, while those who prefer to sit no longer have to worry about having their view blocked. Every week thousands of fans stand in front of their seats for large parts of the game, and attempts by the authorities to end this practice have failed. Fans are standing in ever greater numbers, and we think they should be able to do so in safely designed and managed areas where possible.
The FSF does not propose that the stringent safety standards laid down in the Government’s Green Guide be abolished or weakened in any way, and nor are we suggesting that clubs should be forced to provide safe standing areas. Issues around cost and feasibility should be a matter for individual clubs and their fans, not for the government.
If you agree with us that fans should have the choice to sit or stand at football, please add your name to the thousands already in favour of safe standing. Now’s the best chance we’ll have to make a difference. We, as football fans, have to stand up for ourselves.
The FSF is the national supporters’ organisation for all football fans and represents more than 180,000 individual fans and affiliate members, such as supporters’ clubs, throughout England and Wales. Once closed this petition will be handed to the relevant government and football authorities.
The Football Supporters’ Federation is offering supporters’ organisations and fanzines the opportunity to have the Safe Standing Roadshow visit their club in the coming weeks and months. The roadshow is run by Jon Darch and supports the FSF’s Safe Standing Campaign by providing supporters with the opportunity to see a “rail seat” area in action.
The unit consists of four ‘rail seats’ (from a batch made for VfB Stuttgart in Germany) mounted on a platform in the design of a small grandstand PICTURES HERE. It measures 2m x 2.3m and can be set up outside or indoors (subject to double-door access). By standing at the rail seats on the roadshow unit club executives, safety officers, local councillors and MPs can get a genuine feel of what ‘safe standing’ would be like if such seats were allowed to be installed in a designated standing area at your ground.
The roadshow recently made its first appearance at Wolves, where a representative group of fans indicated clearly to the club’s chief executive that they felt supporters should have the choice to sit or stand and that a significant number would personally like the opportunity to stand. A report on that event, including a link to the independent minutes, is available CLICK HERE. The unit has since made appearances in the North East, Scotland and Merseyside – read a report of that event CLICK HERE – and is being lined up to visit Arsenal, Stoke City and Portsmouth in the coming weeks.
If you would like to hold a similar event at your club (or arrange a private demonstration behind closed doors for your club executives), please contact FSF member Jon Darch (email below), who is running the roadshow. He’ll be happy to arrange a suitable date with you.