Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Soccer clubs consulted on standing

Football fans campaigning to stand at matches in all divisions have received a boost after the Football League asked its 72 clubs for their views.

Standing is currently allowed in Leagues One and Two but Championship grounds must be all-seater once a club has played in the second tier for three seasons.

The Football League's consultation comes almost 20 years after the mandatory introduction of all-seater stadiums in top-flight English football - the key recommendation of the Taylor Report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

It comes after a long-standing campaign by the Football Supporters' Federation (FSF), but any change is likely to require Government approval.

FSF co-chairman Malcolm Clarke said: "Eventually common sense must prevail.

"How long it will take, I wouldn't like to estimate, but certainly the debate is gathering momentum now within the football industry.

"It's not in anybody's interests that the current situation, where you have tens of thousands of people standing in seated areas every week, continues.

"That helps nobody. Those areas are not ideally designed for standing and you have the problem of those people who can't stand, or don't want to stand, having their view blocked by people who are.

"The common sense solution is to have a proper safe-standing area for those who wish to stand and seated areas for those who wish to sit."

A majority of the Premier League and Football League clubs are thought to be open to the idea of safe standing, with the German model pointed to as a workable example.

German stadia use 'rail seats', which can be flipped up and locked in place to provide space to stand behind a waist-high rail that runs along the back of the row in front.

Each "seat" is linked to a ticket number and can be used in a sitting position to meet Uefa rules for European games.

The issue was raised at the Football League's annual chairmen's conference last June, when clubs voted to investigate it further.

On Friday all clubs received a consultation paper led by the Football League's new chief executive, Shaun Harvey.

Mr Harvey told the BBC: "Speaking personally, I do not have strong views on this and it is genuinely a matter for the clubs.

"It is now over to the clubs to get their views."

The consultation paper sent to clubs reportedly asks the following four questions:

:: Should the Football League approach the minister for sport to request that the 'all-seater' stadia requirement for Championship clubs be reviewed with a view to the re-introduction of standing accommodation?

:: Should the Football League approach the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to request that rail seating products be licensed in Football League grounds?

:: Should clubs be permitted to accommodate supporters in rail seating in the Championship?

:: Should clubs be permitted to revert from seating to standing accommodation in League One and League Two following relegation from the Championship?

The FSF said it hoped that if implemented the move could allow ticket prices for supporters to be reduced.

Mr Clarke said: "That would be a decision for the club themselves, but there's certainly the possibility there of lowering ticket prices and increasing their income, for those clubs where there's a high level of demand.

"It's possible to accommodate more people in the same area standing safely than it is sitting.

"Clubs could reduce ticket prices and increase the capacity and, in some cases, increase their income as well. Potentially everyone's a winner."


From Belfast Telegraph