The campaign to introduce safe standing at Premier League and Championship stadiums has taken another step forward.
Well over 100,000 fans signed a petition that has meant a parliamentary debate will take place later this month (Monday 25 June) on the issue.
The petition called on the government to “Allow Premier League and Championship football clubs to introduce safe standing.”
The initial government response was widely seen as simply paying lip service to the issue and dismissive of the thousands of people who have called for change.
The original government response:
‘The Government believes that all-seater stadia are currently the best means to ensure the safety and security of fans at designated football matches in England and Wales.
The Government thanks all the football supporters who made their views known through this petition.
The Government believes that all-seater stadia are currently the best means to ensure the safety and security of fans at designated football matches in England and Wales, while continuing to work closely with the Sports Grounds Safety Authority and football authorities to consider advances in technology and data that may enhance the existing policy.
A debate in Parliament on this issue has been tabled for 25 June, when the nuances and complexities of sports ground safety will be covered in more detail.’
The Petitions Committee (the group of MPs who oversee the petitions system) shared the concerns of the public/fans and also did not think that the Government’s first response was satisfactory, because it did not give any explanation for the Government’s view.
The Committee wrote to the Government to ask for a new response which answered the petition more fully and now they have instead belatedly given this longer and more detailed response:
‘We are looking at the current all-seater policy and any changes that may be needed. We are keen to carefully review all the evidence on the matter and are grateful for the engagement from fans.
The Government thanks all the football supporters who made their views known about this issue through correspondence or through the recent online petition. Many of those were concerned that the proposal from West Bromwich Albion FC made earlier this year to install a standing section was rejected. The law governing all licensed stadia would need to be changed for that proposal to go ahead.
The Government’s current policy is that all-seater stadia are the best means to ensure the safety and security of fans at designated football matches in England and Wales. However the time is now right for us to reexamine that policy in light of the technological changes in stadium and seating design as well as the representations from both clubs and supporters on this issue.
We continue to work closely with the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to consider advances in technology and data on the issue.
The safety of spectators at sports grounds has always been of paramount importance for the Government. The all-seater policy was introduced in the top two divisions in the early 1990s, following a recommendation in Lord Justice Taylor’s Final Report into the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster.
All-seater stadiums have been a success. Benefits include:
Improved crowd management and crowd behaviour;
Modern, comfortable, and inviting facilities for spectators;
Increased inclusivity and diversity amongst those attending matches
Premier League research has shown that the percentage of crowds attending Premier League matches from a Black and Minority Ethnic background continues to increase season-on-season, and is now at a record 16% (2014/2015 season); more women and children attending games helps to nurture the next generation of supporters – Premier League research has shown that a record 26% of match attendees are female, and that children’s season ticket sales now make up 12% of all Premier League season ticket sales (2014/2015 season);
Enhanced security and policing to keep spectators safe;
There have been fewer reported incidents and injuries to spectators, and
Increased spectator attendances – by 60% – contributing to the future health of the game.
Given the success of all seater stadiums, the safety reasons for introducing the policy, and the enhancements that seated spectators have enjoyed, the Government would need strong evidence and rationale to change that policy.
The Government is aware of the calls from a wide range of interest groups including some football clubs and supporters’ groups to introduce standing areas for spectators at football matches in the top two divisions of English football.
We will continue to listen to supporters’ groups and other stakeholders who would like to see the reintroduction of standing at football in the top two tiers. The introduction of rail seating at Celtic Park and more recently at Shrewsbury Town FC informs the debate about the future of spectator accommodation at football matches. It is important that we have this debate and that it is informed by the evidence.
The Government is not complacent about spectator safety, nor are we complacent about the safety policies that have served spectators well for many years. But we acknowledge that policies must remain relevant and effective. Technology and stadium design have evolved since the all-seater policy was introduced. It is important that all the evidence and viewpoints are considered extremely carefully.
The Sports Minister looks forward to discussing at length the nuances and complexities of sports ground safety in Parliament later this month.
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
This is not about forcing Newcastle fans, or any other Premier League/Championship club’s supporters, to stand, rather it is about once again giving people choice. In fact, the situation as it is at the minute does see people standing at matches, particularly away supporters, which means some who don’t want to stand ARE forced to do so.
It isn’t about bringing in the old style terracing, this is tried and tested safe standing areas which have been shown to be far safer over many years, particularly in Germany.
The best supported team in Europe is Borussia Dortmund (see image above) and their 80,000 crowds have tens of thousands of fans in safe standing areas every match.
Time for the Premier League (and Championship) to follow suit.