Safe standing – otherwise known as rail seating – at football stadiums in England was discussed in Parliament this last Tuesday. The debate marked the culmination of multiple long-running campaigns to re-introduce safe standing to the Premier and football Leagues.
Sports minister, Tracey Crouch, recently received criticism for claiming that only a “vocal minority” were interested in safe standing, and opened today’s proceedings with an apology, stating her “mind is open”.
Crouch’s words rang true as following the debate, she announced: “we (the government) will commission an external analysis of evidence relating to the all-seater policy.” She was quick to dilute any expectations, however, following up the debate’s conclusion with “change cannot and should not happen overnight on something as serious as football ground safety. My mind is open on the future of the all-seater policy.”
The implication that this will be a long-term investigation is sure to act as a barrier to clubs looking to implement safe standing sooner rather than later, but should offer reassurance that it will not be re-introduced until every aspect has been scrutinised. It was, afterall, abolished in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.
The e-petition ‘Allow Premier League and Championship football clubs to introduce safe standing’ garnered over 112,000 signatures in the time it was active, surpassing the 100,000-signature requirement for parliamentary consideration in late spring. The government kept a keen eye on developments, posting this response to the petition on May 3rd
“We are looking at the current all-seater policy and any changes that may be needed. We are keen to carefully review all the evidence on the matter and are grateful for the engagement from fans.”
Safe standing was originally banned in 1989, three years prior to the Premier League’s inception, as it was one of Lord Justice Taylor’s recommendations following his investigation into the Hillsborough disaster. Safer incarnations of rail seating have since been fitted to venues such as Celtic Park, Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion and a host of other European stadiums. The “all-seater policy” referred to above currently binds Premier League and Championship teams to seating only.
Initial review findings are expected to be presented before the end of the year, with suggestions that a ‘case-by-case’ appraisal system will be considered in the meantime.