Above - standing at MLS club Orlando City (Pic - Steve Powell)
Stand Up For Choice
In the 100 years leading up to the Taylor Report the majority of fans watched football from a standing position and, in the decades since, it has never gone away, despite the attempts of the authorities to introduce all-seater stadia.
The demand for standing has increased in recent years and is never likely to go away because standing ends tend to generate more noise. And football fans love a proper, rollicking atmosphere. It’s one of the reasons we fall in love with the game.
Fans should not be punished for standing and there is no evidence to suggest that standing is inherently unsafe. Repeated attempts to force supporters to sit since 1991 have not only failed but also created conflict between the authorities and matchgoers. The FSF opposes any clampdown aimed at supporters engaging in persistent standing.
However, not all fans want or are able to stand at the match. Supporters standing in front of those who prefer to sit is a significant customer care issue, particularly away from home. The problem is exacerbated by current legislation which makes it very difficult for clubs to manage this in a sensible and pragmatic manner.
The FSF will lobby football authorities and the Government:
- To scrap the existing legislation and ground rules that penalise supporters for standing at football and engender conflict amongst and against fans;
- To replace them with a system that allows individual clubs and their SAGs to work together to develop appropriate stewarding plans based on sound and rigorous dynamic risk assessment;
- To allow the creation of purpose built standing areas. We believe there are a number of alternative technologies that will allow clubs to create such areas, and it is up to clubs individually — in consultation with their supporters — to decide what mix of standing areas, permitted standing in existing seated areas and seated areas is right for them.
The FSF will coordinate activity among our individual members and fan groups to demonstrate support for the Stand Up For Choice campaign and highlight the problems caused by the existing status quo.
We will continue to engage positively and proactivity with all stakeholders in the debate, including individual fans, our network of trusts and affiliates and other supporters’ organisations, football clubs, the Football Association (FA), the English Football League (EFL), the Premier League, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA), Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s (DCMS), and the police.
If you’re a supporter of the campaign and would like to make something happen at your club then we want to hear from you. Get in touch!
What is the current situation?
It’s quite complex but the Football Spectators Act 1989, amended after the 1991 Taylor Report, requires football stadia in the top two divisions to be all-seater (with temporary exemptions for clubs promoted to the Championship). See further detail via “The legalities of standing”.
The SGSA definition of persistent standing, which is not allowed, is “when individuals in seated areas stand for prolonged periods other than in moments of excitement”. The enforcement of ground regulations are monitored jointly between clubs and their Local Authority Safety Advisory Groups (SAGs). We’d like to see fan groups engaged by SAGs.
Are the authorities views changing?
The DCMS view has, essentially, remained unchanged for years. DCMS says “we accept that some supporters miss the tradition, character and history of some of our former grounds” but insist the effective ban on standing remains in place for a variety of contestable reasons. We are led to believe that SGSA support a move towards rail seating trials in the top two tiers of English football following 2017’s “Persistent Standing in Football Summit”.
The football authorities have a variety of views with a majority of EFL clubs voting in favour of standing back in 2014. In March 2017 EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey reiterated this position: "Our objective remains to secure the opportunity for any of our clubs to have standing accommodation at their stadiums and we will continue to lobby on this basis." In April 2018 the EFL and FSF teamed up for the joint Stand Up For Choice campaign.
The Premier League’s position is less supportive but has evolved in recent years. In November 2016 clubs debated the issue for the first time and asked officials to start a fact-finding exercise to help inform the Premier League’s position on, and approach to, the potential introduction of "permitted standing areas" in top-flight stadiums.
That process has yet to be completed and we understand the Premier League are still some way off the EFL’s position, although they are moving away from previous approaches. In future we believe they are likely to differentiate between “standing only” (e.g. modern terraces or rail seat areas) and “permitted standing” sections (i.e. areas with seats where persistent standing is tolerated).
Elsewhere, FA Chair Greg Clarke has publicly supported standing since November 2016. Anyone who has been to Wembley for a major game will have seen thousands standing in seated areas and the FA have to deal with standing in seated areas at every England home game. The FA increasingly understand that within football attitudes have shifted from a position of opposition to - at worst - neutrality.
Historically the problem in football is that no-one wants to jump first, so the status quo has remained as DCMS can use this as a reason for inaction. But in the words of one football official: "If we can engineer a means of getting everyone to hold hands, we can all jump together."
The Premier League is a crucial voice in this and, should they join forces with the EFL, they could take their case to the FA as football’s regulatory body. Once that is agreed by the FA Council all three bodies would then approach government with a unified voice.
- Celtic introduced a limited area of rail seating in one of their most vocal areas of the ground for the start of the 2016/17 season. The powers are devolved in Scotland so clubs north of the border can make such decisions whereas those in England and Wales cannot.
- Spirit of Shankly held an extensive and sensitive consultation with all interest groups including Hillsborough families. Their subsequent survey had almost 20,000 respondents and it showed overwhelming support for standing sections.
- Ajax and Feyenoord introduced rail seating with the specific justification of improving safety where there was persistent standing. Standing areas have also been introduced at PSV (Netherlands), CSKA Moscow (Russia), SK Sturm Graz (Austria), Western Sydney Wanderers (Australia) and Orlando City (USA) in recent seasons.
- Shrewsbury Town announced the successful conclusion of a crowdfunding initiative to install a section of rail seating at their ground.
- West Bromwich Albion submitted a formal application to DCMS to introduce/trial blocks of rail seating into both their home and away sections.
- Under Michel Platini UEFA maintained a mandatory all-seater policy for all UEFA competition matches, irrespective of whether it is allowed in domestic competition. There are some signs this may change now Platini has gone, although it is likely to take some time.
When fans think of standing areas most will think of modern terraces or rail seats, but other technologies do exist. An interesting example of that is the 2020 Seating which has been installed at Wycombe Wanderers and "enables supporters to choose to stand or sit without having an obscured view of the pitch". Michael Cunnah of producers Grand Stand Seating Ltd says the seats "eliminate the problems associated with persistent standing".
Across in Germany Hamburg’s AOL Arena includes 10,000 standing spaces with seats which foldaway under the stand when required. It isn't possible to retrofit such technology into existing stands but it is an example of what can be designed, should the law permit standing areas. The FSF is neutral on what is the "best" technology, although we do believe clubs should consult with their own supporters to see what they think would work best at their club.