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Safe Standing

Eton Blue at the Chelsea Megastore

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I searched for a topic on this because I remember it being discussed but couldn’t find one.

In response to the recent petition there was finally a debate on the topic of safe standing at football matches that seems to have passed under the radar. I just spent 45 minutes reading it all (anyone else wanting to subject themselves to that can do so here.) and while there was a overwhelming majority of MPs in support of it there were also a few against, Hillsborough and the Taylor report being at the heart of it. 

I cherry picked a few bits out; to start with the one real argument against. 

‘I represent many members of the Hillsborough Family Support Group executive committee. That group represents the majority of the families bereaved at Hillsborough. It has recently considered this matter privately and still opposes standing at football grounds.

As has been mentioned, all-seater stadiums were one of the main recommendations—a really important one—that came out of the final report of the Taylor inquiry, which was the public inquiry designed to establish the cause of the disaster, in which 96 people were crushed to death on the terraces while standing at the Leppings Lane end of the football ground. No one has been crushed to death at a football ground that is all-seater since then in the UK.

While I agree with the sentiment, the last bit made me laugh. I can’t recall anyone being crushed to death, all seating or otherwise, since.

It also needs to be said that the debate currently is very one sided as, due to current legal proceedings, it’s not possible for those against a to fairly argue because they can’t speak about the incident. I think that’s a fair point, you can’t debate a situation with only one side able to freely speak.

Surprisingly though this was the only Hillsborough/Liverpool group that opposed flat-out safe standing. 

‘The Hillsborough Justice Campaign has not taken an official position on standing at football grounds. A spokesman for HJC told me:

“Safety will always be paramount to the HJC, but equally so is respecting the choice of supporters. It has never been our role to dictate on wider football issues.”

The Spirit of Shankly supporters union, after consultation with fans, fully supports the introduction of safe-standing rail seating at football grounds.

A lot of MPs argued that, currently, people were standing unsafely anyway and that there was little to be done to stop this. We all know this is true!

A few argued that it discriminated against people who are unable to see because of persistent standing and those who’s disablilities are severe enough to qualify for disabled seating but are unable to stand for long periods of time. 

It was also mentioned that Cardiff and Norwich have areas of their stadiums that fans know standing will take place and encourage people who want to stand to use those and vice versa. I didn’t know about this, personally I thought it would be illegal, but it makes me think why other clubs can’t/won’t do the same. 

We could have it noted that the Shed and Matthew Harding are likely to have persistent standing at that supporters should by tickets else where to sit.

One other big point mentioned a couple of times was that it was unfair, contradictory and ridiculous that a) it’s dangerous to stand in the top two leagues but below that it suddenly becomes safer to stand at matches and the rules are relaxed. Also that standing in the top tier of Scottish is acceptable to the point that safe standing is being used at Celtic Park. 

The Scottish Parliament rightly recognises that ridiculous contradiction and has allowed clubs in the Scottish Premiership to trial safe standing. Celtic, which 50,000 supporters watch every week, has introduced safe standing in a small segment of the ground, and it has proved very popular. It is about time that we in England caught up with Scotland. It is about time that football fans in England were allowed to stand up.

The end result of the debate is that the Sports Minister will finally be setting up a group to research and evaluate safe standing at football matches. Hopefully before our stadium is green lot again and under way there will be a decision. It’s something. 

Finally, as a Pompey lad, I personally enjoyed this part...

Yet back at Fratton Park they have no choice: standing sections are not allowed. That is all because we previously spent more than three seasons in the top two tiers. I must admit that I am puzzled about why the Government think standing becomes safer as the quality of football gets worse. If that is true, Southampton fans should not be made to sit.’


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