Share this page :
facebooktwittermailfacebooktwittermail

It was during Watford’s early days in the top flight of English football that their then chairman Elton John recorded the song I’m Still Standing. I don’t know whether he would prefer to sit or stand now when he goes to football, but the progress made last week suggests he might soon have the choice football fans have been seeking for some time.

I didn’t ever think, as a football supporter, I would be glued to a Parliamentary debate for some three hours, but I did just that last Monday as MPs from all sides of the House had their say on the subject of safe standing.

I knew Burnley MP Julie Cooper was going to speak in favour. I’d been in contact with her for some time on the subject and she confirmed to me in the days preceding the debate that she would attend and would speak as such.

Embed from Getty Images

When she was given that opportunity, she first spoke about the team and our manager . She said: “I am proud to represent Burnley, not least because of our fantastic Premier League team, the mighty Clarets.

“Burnley were founding members of the Football League. They finished seventh in the Premier League this season, and next season, for the first time in 51 years, they will compete in Europe, a tremendous achievement for a town of fewer than 100,000 people. I put on record my thanks to our manager Sean Dyche, the players, the board and everyone at Burnley football club.”

I didn’t think I’d ever hear Sean’s name mentioned in Parliament but it was positive to hear his and our team’s achievements recorded before Julie continued: “On behalf of all Burnley football fans, and I must declare an interest because I am a season ticket holder,  support the introduction of safe standing areas. I have been going on Turf Moor since I was six years old and for many years, I stood on the terraces with my dad and brother. The atmosphere was terrific even though, as a little girl, I was regularly lifted off my feet as the crowd surged forward.

“It was clearly right that steps were taken to make stadiums safer after the Hillsborough disaster. Now, however, it is time to revisit the issue. It is a fact that many fans prefer to have the option to stand; some fans would like to stand throughout the match and others would like to stand for parts of the action. In all seater stadiums, the situation is that some fans stand for long periods, which leaves fans behind with no option but to stand as well, so large numbers of fans are standing with no rail to hold on to. In an animated crowd, there is a real chance that fans will fall forward over the seat into the next row, which could create a domino effect that pushes more people forward. It is incredibly dangerous.

“Introducing designated safe-standing areas with rails would be a sensible option for fans who wish to stand. There are many examples of that, as we have already heard. I would like clubs to be given the right to introduce safe standing areas as part of a package that would include a requirement to ensure that people in seated areas remain seated throughout the game.

“I would also like clubs to see it as an opportunity for some increased capacity and to offer less expensive match tickets. Football used to be the people’s game, but many people have been priced out. I want to see more families and children enjoying the beautiful game in the certain knowledge that their safety is prioritised.”

She was joined by many other MPs who spoke out in favour and finally the Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch, said that her mind was open to standing at football. She confirmed that the Government would work with the football authorities to identify any gaps in data which might exist relating to injuries in all seater stadiums with the initial analysis expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Embed from Getty Images
She said: “The one thing we need to do is to collect and analyse the evidence that exists and ensure that all views on this issue can be heard and considered before we make any decision on changes to the all seater policy, a point that many Honourable Members have made today.

“We need proper evidence and solutions about how risks associated with standing would be addressed and what systems might be needed to achieve this. The first step is to gather that data and to conduct further research if necessary.”

The news has certainly received a positive response. Peter Daykin, who has been heavily involved on behalf of the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF), tweeted: “Great news from Tracey Crouch about the review into standing at football.” He thanked MPs Alex Norris, for his help with the FSF, and Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, for her work on the issue, and added: “We look forward to being involved in the review and helping to move things forward.”

It was similar from Jon Darch, a Bristol City fan and prominent campaigner through the Safe Standing Roadshow, and what about Owen Riches who could become the Jean-Marc Bosman of safe standing. It was the 16-year-old Owen, an Ipswich season ticket holder, who started the Parliamentary petition which brought about the debate. Over 112,000 signed his petition, it was backed by a number of Football League clubs and then the Labour Party.

When, and I do believe it is when and not if, safe standing is permitted in the Premier League and Championship, a lot of football supporters will owe Owen a great debt of gratitude.

Burnley FC Supporters Groups and Up the Clarets have already pledged to work with the Burnley MP on the issue and will continue to push for safe standing in the top two divisions including Turf Moor.

It’s certainly been a very positive week for those who believe that football supporters in the top two divisions should be given the choice – to sit or stand.

The photographs accompanying this article show the banner displayed by Crystal Palace fans after Tracey Crouch refused West Brom permission to trial safe standing, and work underway at Shrewsbury with the installation of rail seating.

Share this page :
facebooktwittermailfacebooktwittermail


Follow UpTheClarets:
facebooktwitterfacebooktwitter