The Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies, has written to the Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch MP, calling on the UK Government to remove restrictions on standing areas at football grounds in the UK.
He wants to see rail seating properly licenced and wants the UK Government to instruct the Sports Ground Safety Authority to permit licences for ‘rail seats’ to be used both as standing and seated accommodation.
He claims the UK Government is “running out of excuses” to block Safe Standing.
It follows a successful trial at Celtic Park Stadium last season, during which a dedicated safe standing area of 2,975 supporters attended home games. That area has now been made permanent.
Other significant recent developments include the conclusion of the Hillsborough inquiry, which found no evidence to blame standing for the 1989 tragedy, as well as a vote by a huge majority of Liverpool fans to support the reintroduction of standing areas.
Speaking ahead of the new Premier League season, Mr Davies said:
“It’s time for legislators and the game’s uber-rich owners to give something back to hard-pressed football supporters, who have long campaigned for the reintroduction of dedicated standing areas in grounds.
“This Government has set out its stall as a champion of consumer rights and in any other industry might have intervened already.
“Ultimately, the Government is running out of excuses to block Safe Standing.
“We were always told that resistance to the campaign was to do with the Hillsborough tragedy, but the inquiry found no evidence at all to blame standing.
“We’ve had a successful trial at Celtic Park – which has now become permanent – and, after last week’s vote, we now know that the overwhelming majority of Liverpool fans back rail seating.
“The fact is, it’s probably more dangerous to stand on a fast moving underground train than in a properly designed safe standing area – and it’s certainly no more dangerous to stand at the football than it is at the rugby or at a concert, but we don’t see standing banned at other big events.
“Legislation governing standing was drafted in a different era, to address a different set of problems and it’s time for politicians to move on and give the people what they want.”
Michael Brunskill of the Football Supporters Federation said:
"Time and again surveys show us that the vast majority of fans back the choice to sit or stand - as surveys by fans at Arsenal, Everton, Huddersfield, Liverpool and Spurs have shown in recent months.
"The Premier League are consulting their clubs on safe standing and we hope to see a positive response from top-flight clubs. Standing can be managed safely, it is the popular choice, and it improves the atmosphere.”
Jon Darch of the Safe Standing Roadshow:
"It's great to see continued support for safe standing from Mr Davies, who has been championing this cause in Wales for several years now. He is quite right: standing in a rail seating area is safer than standing behind conventional seats, as thousands of fans do at present. I hope that his repeated call for the introduction of this enhancement in spectator safety will not fall on deaf ears in Westminster."