The Football League have agreed to lobby the Government for safe standing areas, reports The Daily Telegraph. It makes happy reading for supporters and comes hot on the heels of their recent safe standing consultation.
The results of the survey were revealed at the league's club meeting in Derby yesterday with 70% of the clubs responding backing safe standing. Chief Executive Shaun Harvey was given an "overwhelming mandate" to lobby Sports Minister Helen Grant.
The consultation took place in December and January following the decision at the Football League's AGM to "explore" the steps necessary for safe standing trials to be run. All 72 member clubs were asked 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?
It's great news for the overwhelming majority of football fans throughout England and Wales, more than half a million of which belong to the Football Supporters' Federation. Numerous surveys on the subject have returned 80-90% support among fans for the introduction of safe standing areas.
While this is further proof that momentum is firmly on the side of the pro-safe standing camp, it doesn’t mean we’ll instantly see fully functional rail seat areas in the Football League.
The next step for the Football League will be to take their findings to the Coalition Government requesting a change in the law. With the Liberal Democrats already in favour, a general election around the corner and such widespread support for the issue, it is bound to prove an interesting process.
Successive Governments have argued that, although fans might back safe standing, there was no appetite for the change from the football industry itself. The results of the Football League’s work demonstrate beyond doubt that this is not the case.
Peter Daykin, Safe Standing Co-ordinator at the FSF, said: “Today's Football League statement makes clear that a proportion of football supporters want to stand and their football clubs are happy to give them that choice.
“In arriving at this decision, clubs have considered the arguments for and against, the opportunities standing affords and the concerns the issue throws up and it is quite right that the football family, the Government and police continue to engage in an open, honest, evidence-led debate on the subject.
“The FSF believe that a small number of controlled trials of safe standing areas is an excellent means of facilitating this debate.
“The 72 clubs of the Football League deserve great credit for the way they have approached this decision, as do the organisation's staff and board, and we would particularly like to thank the many supporters who lobbied their clubs to say ‘yes’ to safe standing. It’s crucial that individual fans continue to make their voices heard on this issue.”
Bob Symns, Chief Executive at Peterborough United, supports safe standing and welcomed the latest news: “Following all the hard work and commitment that has been undertaken by the FSF, Safe Standing Roadshow, and teams from the Football League and Premier League in regard to rail seating.
“I think the result of the Safe Standing Consultation will prove to be a significant, sensible and safe step in the right direction on the road to bringing this extremely credible option to the public and our stadia”
And it's not just Football League clubs that back safe standing, recent Mail on Sunday research showed that 19 out of 20 Premier League clubs are open to the concept too.
Today’s news is a welcome boost for fans in the Football League but there’s still work to be done in the top-flight and the FSF encourages fans in the Premier League to lobby their clubs to back safe standing.
How can I back safe standing?
If you’re a fan of a top-flight club who’d like to make a difference there are a number of options open to you. The easiest thing to do is to contact your club’s Supporter Liaison Officer and your local MP to make them aware of your support for safe standing, see the basic arguments here.
Want to do more?
If the Safe Standing Roadshow hasn’t been to your club you should arrange a visit soon to show club officials, local council officers, and police exactly what rail seats look like.
We’d also encourage you to carry out a safe standing survey, they have already proved extremely useful at Arsenal and Aston Villa. The aim is to educate club officials to the extent of their fans’ support for safe standing and to reinforce the message to already supportive clubs.
The day might come when your Chief Executive gets the opportunity to put up a hand in favour of safe standing. Your survey might just give them the confidence to do that...
Football League response
The Football League confirmed a majority of clubs answered "yes" to the four questions posed and said it would "now engage with the relevant authorities and stakeholder organisations regarding these matters".
Its Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey, said: "The consultation has given us a better understanding of the wide range of views held by clubs on this issue and we will take our cue from the prevailing opinion.
"We recognise that this is both a complicated and sensitive matter that will need significant debate. Therefore, no-one should assume that it will lead to overnight change."
Image - rail seats in Hannover, thanks to Jon Darch for the image.