Safe standing: Lib Dems make 2015 General Election pledge By Richard Conway BBC Radio 5 live sports news correspondent
The Liberal Democrats want to change the law and allow Premier League and Championship clubs to introduce safe standing at stadiums. The party has confirmed to BBC Sport it plans to make the pledge as part of its 2015 General Election manifesto.
Currently, the Football Spectators Act 1989 requires safety authorities to ensure fans attending games in England’s top two divisions are seated.
However, the party is not advocating a return to open terracing. It believes rail seats, popular in German football, should be introduced if clubs wish to install standing sections.
Rail seats can be locked in an upright position to allow fans to stand and lean against a barrier. However, the seats can also be unlocked to comply with all-seater stadium rules, as and when required.
The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) has led a campaign in favour of safe standing for several years. “Football can’t bury its head in the sand,” said an FSF spokesman. “Tens of thousands already stand at games.
Several Premier League clubs – including Aston Villa, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Swansea City – now back the introduction of rail seats on a trial basis.
The Football League has also lobbied for a change in legislation given a number of its 72 clubs would like to implement standing in their grounds.
Chief executive Shaun Harvey said: “Since being given a mandate by our clubs to lobby for a change to the law on the use of standing accommodation, we have had useful discussions with the Sports Minister and other relevant stakeholders on this matter.
“We recognise that this is an extremely emotive issue and that significant change isn’t necessarily going to happen overnight. However, a logical first step would be for safe standing products, such as rail-seating, to be licensed for use by the relevant authorities. This would enable one of the 21 Football League clubs that is not currently required by law to have an all-seater stadium to install a pilot scheme at its ground.
“This would give everybody greater insight into the use of this type of accommodation and help take the debate forward in a cautious and responsible manner, as it would not require any changes to the existing law as these clubs are already permitted to have fans standing at their matches.”