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?
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.
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.