We now have Un-Safe Standing – but Premier League against change

Last Friday's meeting of the Football League in Portugual confirmed a 2 thirds majority of the football league in favour of safe standing. However the Premier League remain against with some  exceptions including Arsenal, Aston Villa and West Ham.

This may be something to do with the development of grounds, with Premier League clubs likely to be new fully modernised all seater stadia, and Football League clubs less so. The fact that Middlesboro voted against in the Championship meeting would also support that.

So what's next?

A change in the law for one thing. Post Hillsborough the Final (and second) Taylor report into the the tragedy recommended all seater stadiums be adopted in the top tiers of English football, and this was incorporated into law.

The consequent implication of that report was that somehow football fans were at fault. The removal of standing terraces was a direct attempt to address fan behaviour issues, in what some might argue was a further 'criminalisation' of football fans. Seating would prevent the hooliganism that terraces encouraged. Not in dispute is that seating would also control the numbers allowed in each section, along with removal of fences on to the pitch, but would it help the atmosphere, many believe not and that having the choice of similarly controlled safe standing would be far better.

Many fans link the hooligansim argument to a general prejudice against football fans that permeates our national game, and police handling of crowds. Some of this relates to the bad image that has long been associated with the behaviour of a minority, but policing needs to be fair, as does the law and surely should not involve the unfair branding of a large percentage of entirely innocent people going about their business in a lawful manner.

There also seems to be no evidence linking standing to hooliganism or it seems safety in grounds, some recent research in Leagues 1 and 2 actually contradicts that assumption. Indeed the reality of what happens at many grounds in the all seater Premier League and Championship particularly their away sections, is that many fans stand anyway. Being large crowds they are often beyond the realistic control of stewards, and in areas not designed for standing nor safety certified as such, therefore arguably the unintended consequence is we now have unsafe standing throughout the top two tiers of the English game.

With blame for Hillsborough finally removed from the shoulders of fans or so-called hooliganism, it remains to be seen if politicians will act particularly without the support of the hugely wealthy Premier League lobby. Of course the voters may count if the Charlton Supporter's Trust's recent survey result showing an overwhelming number in favour is anything to go by, although not everyone is a football fan. As with a number of other things in Football this seems to work very well in Germany, and perhaps we have a lot to learn from them, I suspect however we will have to wait for the 'big boys' from the top League to wade in, and perhaps the spectre of Hillsborough to fade further from the memory despite all the evidence, before anything happens.




Wikipedia on Safe Standing

Also articles in the Independent