Conference policy motion: “Safe standing at football matches”

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Introducing the first in our quick gen-up series of policy motions to be debated in Bournemouth. And we kick off (hehehe, geddit?) with the Safe Standing at Football Matches motion (F20) outlined for us by Peter Jones, who will be summing up at the debate.

What is the motion trying to achieve?

Allow folk to stand up to watch football matches.

Er…is that all?

Yes.

So what’s the problem?

Where seats are provided, for instance in most top-flight grounds that are ‘all-seater’, people aren’t allowed to stand up. Many people prefer to stand up, however, and therein lies the problem which the motion seeks to remove. The problem arises because being told to sit down (by the stewards) causes aggravation between stewards and fans, because home and away fans in the same stadium often get treated differently, and because seated fans don’t want people standing up in front of them.

So you want to bring back terraces?

No, on the contrary. There are many advantages to having seated stadia. What we want is for parts of every ground to be allocated for people who prefer to stand in front of their seats while the game is going on. So, for instance, let people stand up in the ten rows at the back of the stand, allocate those areas only as ‘standing allowed’ and then (as in Germany) perhaps install handrails in front of each row of seats.

Isn’t that unsafe?

There is nothing inherently unsafe about standing up. What was unsafe about the old terraces, especially when they got too crowded, was that fans tended to crush into the same space. “Safe standing” eliminates that problem as everyone is allocated by ticket their own seat / space to stand in.

Why on earth is this on the Liberal Democrat conference agenda?

There is more to life that global warming and macro-economic taxation policy. We have to care about small issues that matter to ordinary people as well. The fact that a motion like this wouldn’t get anywhere close to the floor of any other major party conference is, as always, entirely to our credit.

But it’s about football….

No, it’s not. It’s about choice and individual freedoms and responsibilities. Can we define ‘a liberal attitude’ as one that allows people to choose what they want to do as long as it doesn’t affect others? If I choose to stand up to watch the game, without standing in anyone’s way, then why on earth shouldn’t that be my choice? Increasingly we are hidebound by too many regulations that have little point except to satisfy the ‘health and safety’ lobby.

And if this becomes party policy?

Wholly to our benefit. This is surprisingly popular with many voters. Moreover it’s a policy that is easily achievable and costs practically nothing – certainly nothing from the public purse. If the government had any sense, this would be a good policy for them to implement immediately.

Anything else?

Have a look at how this has been received on the Football Supporters Federation website. (On which note, I should acknowledge the help and support of the FSF in drafting the motion). Or just google ‘safe standing’. Popular, liberal, safe, sensible. Just vote for it! Please.

Peter Jones is Chairman of Chiltern Liberal Democrats and a season-ticket holder (in the standing area) at Wycombe Wanderers.

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29 Comments

  • Peter Chapman 17th Aug '08 - 5:50pm

    What planet is Mr Boyce on!!
    Who is he to tell football supporters they must sit down.
    Well done the Liberal Democrats for raising an issue that probably concerns more people that site value rating or votes for criminals.
    Next we’ll be told we should all stay in our seats at the end of the leaders speech in case there is a crowd surge!
    If standing was allowed ticket prices could also reflect this and maybe ordinary supporters could return to matches

  • Laurence, I’m sure you’d feel differently if the U’s were able to return to the glory days of John Beck’s stewardship.

  • Peter Jones 18th Aug '08 - 9:37am

    Mark – it is because of my experience at Luton Town that I got involved with the ‘safe standing’ campaign. Not only are the seats potentially crippling for anyone over about 5′ 9″, not only are the stewards on day release from a Max Mosley video, but also the regulations are enforced in a way designed to annoy even mature Lib Dem councillors such as, er, me! If standing up is OK for the home fans, it should be OK for the away fans in the next stand.

    Jennie – I’ve been to Huddersfield. Great place, stood up the whole game, of course there was no trouble at all.

    Laurence – very helpful comments, thank you. You are being sarcastic, aren’t you?

    Peter C – it’s not about the prices. Though it’s worth noting that in Germany ticket prices tend to be lower that in England, crowds are as high if not higher, and they allow ‘safe standing’ in many stadia.

  • Laurence – I live not far from a Football ground (0.4 miles by road, closer as the crow flies) and I have to say the fans are well behaved, quiet, well mannered and in fact I have more peace on the days matches are on that at any other time :-)

    I will be supporting this!

  • Hywel Morgan 18th Aug '08 - 1:34pm

    “What planet is Mr Boyce on!!”

    A recently discovered one called Ultra-troll :-)

    Though the conventions about silence at sporting events do confuse me. It isn’t the done thing to make a noise as a tennis player is serving as you’ll distract the reciever. However it is quite OK to do so at cricket which is functionally almost the same.

  • Hywel Morgan 18th Aug '08 - 1:39pm

    Oh and this is a highly sensible policy. That last sports policy paper was against it – though my recollection was that it wasn’t a particularly contentions area in discussions but I didn’t make it to every meeting.

    Even in a Hillsborough type situation standing wouldn’t have been unsafe had it not been for the fences the dangers of which were apparent after the Bradford fire (where fortunately there were no fences)

  • Can’t quite work out if Boyce is being sarcastic or not?

  • This needs to be brought back asap.

    The benefits
    - Both standers and sitters will benefit. Standers can stand and sitters won’t have the annoyance of standers getting in their way.

    - Increased atmosphere in stadiums. A lot of fans only tend to stand up and sing. And all the fans who want to sing can be spread out across the stadium. If they are all in the same area, the atmosphere will definitely and notably increase (as will the fans’ enjoyment).

    - One standing space would take up less room than a seat, therefore more fans can attend and prices could be reduced.

    - Increased attendances. Thousands of fans for ‘smaller clubs’ do not go because they don’t enjoy it. Teams like Boro, Blackburn, Bolton will never regularly sell-out. Offering cheaper, standing tickets will bring back some fans who are against modern day football as they don’t enjoy it (because they can’t stand with friends and watch the game).

    - It is much more dangerous to stand in a seated area but tens and tens of thousands do this every week in England.

    - Reduced arrests/ejections from football stadiums. Every week throughout the country hundreds of fans will get ejected and tens will be arrested because of persistently standing up.

    - No need for reduced allocations. Fans, especially of Manchester United, Liverpool and Leeds have had thousands of tickets taken away in recent years because of standing. Clubs lose money, match has reduced atmopshere and fans don’t get to see the team play – nobody is a winner besides the safety inspector having an easier day.

    The disadvantages
    - It will cost the club money and a small amount of time to introduce these areas (although the costs will be very small compared to the amount they receive).

    - Crowd trouble will increase – This is not true. 99% of crowd trouble happens outside the stadium or is between fans and stewards because of standing. If it is brought back then very little, if not no trouble between fans and stewards will occur.

    If the standing areas for away and home fans are not right next to each other then there is no evidence that crowd trouble will occur more than it currently does (which is very, very limited).

    For me, it needs to be brought back for football’s sake. Bring back the atmosphere, the passion and the love for football and stop treating all fans like animals.

  • Gary Daniels 27th Aug '08 - 4:11pm

    Standing in seated areas is a growing trend. It’s perfectly clear that some fans want to stand whilst others want to sit. The solution is simple – have separate safe standing areas and seated areas so people can make their choice. It works well in Germany and also ensures better atmospheres. So no reason it can’t work in England.

  • Nick Brayley 28th Aug '08 - 10:28am

    Firstly I support the safe standing debate and well done Lib Dems for acknowledging ordinary peoples feelings.

    Whilst in reply to Mr Boyce, please can you show a bit of respect to people who chose to go to football matches, it’s clear you don’t like to, so don’t go, just please respect those of us who do. The standing issue is about choice and freedom.

  • Darren Brack 28th Aug '08 - 10:59am

    Standing areas should definately be introduced, it would stop alot less hassle inside the ground from stewards trying to get us fans to sit.
    The atmosphere at most premier league games is non exisatant except for the away fans who more often than not tend to stand, standing areas in german stadiums have improved the atmosphere considerably and are 100% safe, so why the problem in this country??
    Surely us fans have the right to choose whether they wish to stand or sit !!

  • Laurence you are a complete and utter plum

  • matthew thompson 2nd Sep '08 - 9:12pm

    thank you for finally taking notice of the fans!
    bring back our choice!

  • Cllr Gareth Epps 3rd Sep '08 - 11:23am

    I’ve just had a newsletter from the Football Supporters’ Federation who are featuring the motion:

    http://www.fsf.org.uk/WannastandupatyourgroundGetwritingtotheLibDemsthen.php

    I am Aide for the debate so won’t comment on its merits at this stage – but could I ask, does anyone know a bar near to the BIC that might be showing the City-Chelsea match?

  • I was in the pub before the Leicester v Tranmere game and the general consensus was if the Liberal Democrats supported and made standing viable again, all 30 or so of us would vote for them. Bring it on Lib Dems :).

  • Thousands upon thousands of football fans feel disenfranchised by being denied a simple choice to sit or stand.

    Given the increasing aptathy that pervades most elections nowadays I hope that the Lib Dems recognise the potential vote winner that they have here if they adopt safe standing as party policy.

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