In debating the issues around “safe standing” it is important to remember the below statement.
“We are not suggesting that the government should force clubs in the top divisions to provide Safe Standing areas – only that they should be able to do so. Issues around cost and feasibility should be a matter for individual clubs, not for government.”
– Football Supporters’ Federation
I attended a recent road show in Liverpool, where between 60-80 people turn out to debate the issues around the proposed system. Chaired by The Time’s Football editor and Liverpool fan, Tony Evans, with panel members Prof. Steve Frosdick who is an expert in Stadium Safety, Steve Jones a Liverpool fan and the Chair of the Football Supporters Federation, Malcolm Clarke.
All are in favour of the proposed system, importantly with fans safety being paramount in its introduction and its continued use.
This system meets the government’s own Green Guide on safety at sports grounds and UEFA/FIFA requirements. The system is already in use in Germany including Hannover 96, Stuttgart and Werder Bremen. When used for standing, the ratio can range from 1:1 up to 1:1.8. In a row of 28 seats you could have up to around 50 people. Each fan would still have a specific space to stand; so, row G seat number 12 would be either 12 or 12a in standing mode.
The system appears best suited to new developments. At a recent ‘Fans’ Parliament’, Wolves fans gave their backing to the system as part of their redevelopment of the ground. For structural reasons some existing grounds may not be suitable.
Don Foster MP put forward a Bill, the second reading of which is due in October 2011. His speech on 7th December 2010 rightly covered the tragic events of both Hillsborough and Heysel, but both he and the Bill’s supporters argue that it does not mean a return to old traditional terraces and safety standards will not be compromised.
Views varied at the meeting, with the panel being in favour of the proposed system. Those in favour of this system state that it is safer than present seating with a trip hazard directly in front them.
Opposition mainly surrounded the safety aspects of the system. It is important to note that the system is not suitable for children.
With a 1 metre high barrier directly in front of standing fan; this is the prescribed safety height and cannot be lowered. In a person around 6ft tall it would reach up to their mid-rift.
It is reasonable to assume that children would not be allowed into a “safe standing” section. It may be a condition of the stadium safety certificate if it was introduced at any ground.
It is also important to note that it is envisaged that between 10-15% of a ground’s capacity would use this system, if appropriate to do so.
The meeting received coverage in the local media with the Liverpool Echo rightly taking the views of the Hillsborough victims families into consideration and regional BBC news covering all the main areas of the debate.
I can see the benefits for some clubs in Scotland incorporating this system, if all safety measures are met. Currently, full or partial re developments could be considered by clubs such as Aberdeen and Hamilton.
Written by Peter Cowan