Safe Standing: An Open Goal For Football That Cuts Prices In Half
Thu 11th Aug 2016 | Football Stadiums & Facilities
A new paper published today by the Adam Smith Institute calls on the government to allow safe standing in football stadiums, following the recent inquest’s conclusion that it was police errors, not standing fans, that were responsible for the Hillsborough tragedy.
The report reveals that safe standing is overwhelmingly supported by fans, hitting 92% in favour in Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) polls, with the large majority citing cheaper ticket prices and improved atmosphere.
And it’s not just the fans who want to stand, 19 out of 20 Premier League clubs want to offer safe standing but are restricted by the Dept for Culture Media and Sport, who exercised a power under 1989 Football Spectators Act to require football clubs to offer only seated areas.
The Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Tracey Crouch, has the power to change this regulation and allow safe standing which has been successfully implemented in many European clubs, other British sports such as rugby and horse racing, and in lower tiers of British football. The report notes that, of all recorded stadium disasters from the last 20 years, none have been related to safe standing, and several have even occurred in seated stadia.
Safe standing could, the report argues, increase capacity and widen the ticket prices on offer, leaving fewer fans missing out of the big games and improving access for lower income fans.
European clubs with standing sections have much more varied ticket prices and following suit in the UK could cut the the cost of the cheapest tickets by up to 57% the paper estimates. With more than a £500 saving on an Arsenal season ticket, £438 off a Chelsea season ticket and £250 off at Crystal Palace, that’s serious savings for devoted fans.
Removable alternatives to standard seats such as rail and clip on seats have been used successfully in countries such as Austria, Sweden and Germany and provide flexibility. Following a relaxation by the Scottish Premier League, Celtic has introduced rail seating for 3,000 spectators in 2016-17 season - the first formal standing in top division British football for decades.
In light of the Hillsborough inquest findings, Tracey Crouch and the government should consider lifting the standing ban and allowing the introduction of limited safe standing areas, delighting fans and clubs alike.
The Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew Davies, responded to the report saying it was time to look again at the issue:
“There isn’t a football ground in the country that doesn’t currently have large numbers of supporters standing each week in all-seater areas. That’s why it makes sense to introduce purpose-built areas for those who want to stand, reducing conflicts with safety stewards and fans who don’t want to have their view obscured by persistent standing.
“Let’s face it, it would be safer than the arrangements we currently see. We would love to see a limited pilot at grounds here in Wales. The Hillsborough Inquiry has now reported and as we expected, the blame for that tragedy was found to sit with poor policing and management of the crowds on the day – not standing.
“Now we have an opportunity to address this discriminatory ruling which sees football fans treated in a way that fans of other sports are not. Advances in stadium technology have made stadiums a far more safe and comfortable environment for fans of all ages, genders and backgrounds. Safe standing won’t affect that and it’s about time we started treating football fans with a bit more respect.”
The report’s author Ben Southwood, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, said:
“The standing ban is an anachronism: clubs across Europe have rail seating sections with no incident, creating superior atmosphere and allowing for a cheaper tier of tickets. Just look at Dortmund’s Südtribüner!
“Unlike the adversarial attitude police, club organisation and fans had during the dark days of the 80s, we now know how to manage large crowds well. The ban doesn’t fit. Tracey Crouch doesn’t need to pass a law, she has the power to simply undo the prohibition on safe standing—and she should."
The report “Safe Standing: Why it’s time to remove the ban” can be accessed here.
Image: Action Images via Reuters / Craig Brough
Posted by: Kev Howland
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