week across the country
fans are being ejected or even banned for simply standing up to support
their team. Away allocations have been cut, parts of grounds are under
threat of closure, and there is increasing conflict with stewards.
Up Sit Down have met with clubs,
local authorities, safety officers, football authorities and the FLA,
but have found very few people who really consider this a safety issue.
We are now left wondering just why such efforts are being made to
prevent supporters standing.
FLA say that the movements that standing spectators make to follow play
could lead to them falling and causing a cascade effect, injuring those
in front. SUSD consider that whilst there may be some risk of falls in
steep upper tiers, we simply cannot envisage such an effect in areas of
relatively low gradient, which are present in virtually every ground.
This is not just the view of supporters, but also some clubs, safety
officers and local authorities.
senior council official, who is threatening his local club with closing
part of their ground, told us that he can see no safety problems with
standing in that area. However he has to be seen to be doing his job,
and is under pressure from the FLA. At their conference last year the
gentleman charged by the Core
Cities Group of Local Authorities to deal with persistent standing, was
shouted down by football club safety officers, angry at his ridiculous
arguments. He later stated that
a majority of Football Safety Officers Association members seem not to
consider persistent standing as a safety issue. The FSOA National
Administrator said that they are opposed to supporters being permitted
to stand within football stadia during passage of play, and their policy
is to support the FLA document ‘Standing in Seated Areas at Football
Grounds’. He noted however that there is a difference of view within
the FSOA, but that a number of Safety Officers support the policy. It
appears therefore that the majority don’t.
is accepted that the greatest danger from standing is at moments of
excitement such as goal celebrations, so why are such efforts being made
to stop passive standing during normal play – the time of least risk?
Lord Taylor predicted that supporters would stand at moments of
excitement, so knowing that this will occur, why did the FLA allow many
new steep stands to be built?
FLA say that standing supporters take up more room so spread into
aisles, but our experience is that this is rare and easily prevented. We
believe that there is less risk of injury when a goal celebration is
started from the standing position, a view unanimously backed by
comments from numerous SUSD members, but the FLA say the opposite.
Government’s standard reply to supporters writing in support of
SUSD’s proposals states that there are more injuries at grounds with
standing than in all seater stadia. This is misleading as the relevant
figures would be injuries from standing in seated areas compared to
sitting, but the FLA say these are not available. We know of one major
Premiership ground where the injury rate is the same whether supporters
sit for a major fixture or stand for a lesser match. Even
in grounds with terracing the average injury rate is only 1 in 20,732
and the FLA admit that 70% of these are illness or pre-existing injures.
safety really is a concern, why don’t clubs minimise the risk wherever
possible? Where away allocations have been cut, why are supporters
packed into a smaller section, surrounded by empty seats, rather than
taking the opportunity to reduce spectator density and hence the safety
Taylor said that standing accommodation is not intrinsically unsafe. His
report did not specifically cover the issue of standing in seated areas,
but said that he expected that after a period of time supporters would
get used to sitting. So how well did he understand us?
year in London alone
an average of 70 passengers are seriously injured and two killed
in accidents related to standing on
buses. The Health & Safety Executive says that standing on
trains is not a safety issue. Meanwhile the FLA are determined to stop
standing in even lower tiers of football grounds. Is this objective
safety assessment or convenience? It would cost billions to provide
seats for all bus and train passengers, but football clubs had to pay to
alter their grounds, and of course we know the Government don’t want
us to stand.
most dangerous place for standing is steep upper tiers, so why are away
fans often allocated these, whilst the safer lower tier is empty?
QPR away supporters in the upper tier have to stand in order to see the
part of the goal. SUSD suggested that the pitch is moved forward to
improve sightlines, but QPR showed little interest. We wrote to
Hammersmith & Fulham Council, who said
they would ‘observe the safety implications of standing in the School
Upper’, adding that ‘any action however will need to be balanced
against what is reasonably practical to achieve, given the stand is over
25 years old.' They didn’t explain why the age of the stand is
relevant to moving the pitch forward.
in some grounds supporters are being ejected from gently sloping lower
tiers, which are under threat of closure. In some standing is largely
ignored, but in others the club choose not to take simple action to
prevent standing in more dangerous upper tiers. Does safety not demand
asked the FLA why spectators can stand at rock concerts held in football
grounds. They said firstly that the action is in one place, so there is
less chance of toppling over in straining to follow it, and secondly
that those attending music events are a different ‘profile’ from
football supporters. Do they really think rock fans stand quietly in
front of their seats?
safety is paramount, why did the FLA wait until last year to take
serious action? What has prompted the recent clamp down on standing? We
have seen no evidence to suggest that the safety risk has changed, so is
there another reason?
FLA was charged to monitor local authorities’ oversight of spectator
safety at English and Welsh football grounds, and ensure through a
licensing system that these grounds became all seated. In 1992 the
Government decided to allow clubs in the lower two divisions to retain
standing accommodation, however if a club is relegated back into a lower
division, or if it builds a new ground, it cannot have standing areas.
All seating by stealth?
FLA now appears to have broadened its remit, to include comfort and
security of supporters as well as safety. It seems that they have to
resort to using every argument against standing, no matter how weak. Is
it right that a body who don’t
even agree that a significant proportion of supporters want to stand
should have such influence over the way we watch our game?
recent report by 'The Efficiency in Government Unit' claimed that many
quangos could be merged or abolished without anyone noticing a
significant difference and included the FLA, along with such bodies as
the Potato Council, in a list of the most useless quangos. Do
we still need the FLA?
Control & Customer Care
relevant is the argument that allowing supporters to stand will lead to
crowd trouble? Any disorder will almost certainly occur at a time of
controversy or excitement, when supporters would be expected to be
standing. A ground regulation banning standing is hardly likely to stop
anyone who is sufficiently agitated as to cause trouble from getting out
of their seat.
who are unable or prefer not to stand, should not have their view
blocked by others, however rather than a justification for making all
supporters sit, this is a major reason for providing separate areas for
everyone to watch the game as they wish.
appears to be reluctance for many parties to participate in an open
debate on standing. Despite devoting considerable time to SUSD, the FLA
are clearly tired of what they consider are the same old arguments. Few
clubs have been prepared to talk openly, and whilst several have
publicly stated support for standing areas, others have told us that
they support our aims but cannot allow this to be quoted. Premiership
clubs discussed our letter at a meeting and decided not to reply. The
Premier and Football Leagues did not want us to make public what was
said when we met. One club made a public statement in support of our
proposals, but then wrote to us with a far more guarded opinion. It is
almost as if there is a conspiracy not to allow public debate, as this
would highlight the weakness of the case against standing.
Stand Up Sit Down proposes
the simple solution that in all seater stadia,
at least one area of each ground is selected where supporters would be
permitted to stand safely in front of their seats. It is clear that
supporters will continue to stand, as they have since the Taylor Report,
so by allocating only the most suitable areas, our proposals would
actually improve safety.
deeper we dig the more it seems that a total ban on standing cannot be
justified on the grounds of safety, crowd control or customer care.
Lessons have been learned from Hillsborough, and major steps taken to
improve our safety, but a total ban on standing is simply not necessary
or indeed workable. So why is there such reluctance even for an open
debate on the issue? Is the issue safety or social engineering?
there a hidden agenda to move the game away from its working class roots
and fill our grounds with middle class fans who will buy the
merchandise, clap quietly in their seats, join in with the orchestrated
singing over the PA, but disappear as soon as football stops being
Stand Up Sit Down
– We do not wish to misrepresent the views of the FLA and full notes of
our meeting stating the views of SUSD and the FLA can be read on our