Liberal Democrats back plans to change safety regulations at football stadiums

September 12, 2008 3:39 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrat Autumn conference today backed proposals to change regulations that currently prevent football stadiums from providing 'safe-standing' areas that meet stringent safety requirements.

The Liberal Democrat Autumn conference today backed proposals to change regulations that currently prevent football stadiums from providing 'safe-standing' areas that meet stringent safety requirements.

The proposals recognise and seek to remedy safety problems that exist in all seater stadiums where, despite regulations, large numbers of fans regularly stand in areas designed for sitting only.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Don Foster said:

"This is a sensitive issue. But we cannot ignore the large numbers of fans who want to stand, and are doing so in seating areas, despite the existing regulations and the danger it causes.

"Given the seeming impossibility of policing existing regulations and recognising that some passionate fans want to be able to jump up and down when watching their teams each week then we need to look at technologies that allow them to do that safely.

"Football has taken enormous steps forward in recent years with more diverse fans, improved stadium designs and better policing. These proposals would in no way seek to undermine any of that progress and would only allow future ground developments that meet the most stringent safety requirements.

"But if some fans want to stand and clubs want to let them, then we should at least explore safe ways of achieving it."

The full text of the motion is copied below:

Conference notes that:

A. Since 1994 all football clubs in the Premiership and the Football League Championship have been required to provide all-seater accommodation.

B. Model ground regulations recommended by the Premier and Football Leagues stipulate that standing in seated areas should be forbidden.

C. A sizeable minority of supporters who wish to watch football whilst standing continue to stand in seated areas.

D. Spectators standing in seated areas can create a number of hazards particularly for those seated around them.

Conference in particular notes that:

i) Standing in seating areas, and efforts to enforce the ban on it, is a significant cause of conflict between supporters, their clubs and the authorities.

ii) Safe standing areas operate safely and successfully at many European grounds, notably in Germany.

iii) Where customers have the choice to purchase tickets in either 'sitting' or 'standing' areas, the problem of seated spectators finding their views blocked by people standing is largely eliminated.

iv) Outside the top two divisions of English league football safe standing areas are permitted.

v) There is no recent evidence to suggest that standing spectators are any less safe at football matches than those who are seated.

Conference believes that the introduction of safe standing areas would:

a) Be extremely popular with supporters, both those who prefer to stand and those who (for whatever reasons including health or disability) prefer to sit.

b) Provide choice and promote social inclusion in the national game.

c) Positively assist the relationship between supporters and stewards by removing this area of potential conflict.

d) Most importantly, be safe.

Conference therefore calls upon the Government to:

1. Replace any regulations requiring spectators to be seated with new regulations clearly setting out standards under which a safe standing area may be licensed.

2. Direct the Football Licensing Authority to prepare suitable guidance under which domestic football clubs, working with their supporters, may introduce safe standing areas.