Lib Dems plan safe-standing

The Liberal Democrats will make safe standing areas at football grounds part of their 2015 General Election manifesto - an idea that has been met with scepticism from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.

Last Updated: 22/08/14 at 14:37 Post Comment

The Hillsborough Memorial at Anfield in April 2014

The Hillsborough Memorial at Anfield in April 2014

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The Lib Dems’ spokesperson for Media, Culture and Sport, MP John Leech, has told Sky Sports News HQ the party wish to encourage clubs from both the Barclays Premier League and Sky Bet Football Leagues to introduce ‘rail seating’.

The structures, in use at a number of European stadiums such as Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park, allow a retractable seat to be fixed or moved depending on the designated area or type of game.

Leech, who has visited Dortmund, stressed clubs will not be compelled to use the system but would be encouraged to introduce them for both home and away fans.

He said: "What we need to do is introduce safe standing areas with rail seating that gives fans what they want – the choice between standing and sitting. 

"Over 90% of fans want the choice. There are fans who’ve stopped going to away games because they want to sit down, but are forced to stand up by others standing in their area. 

"We are saying let's formalise it. Let's have designated safe-standing areas so that some people can stand in areas designed for standing, and others who want to sit down can do where their view is not impeded.”

The Football Supporters' Federation has campaigned for years for safe standing, with a recent poll showing 92% approve.

But Kenny Derbyshire from the Hillsborough Justice Campaign - an eye-witness of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 96 people were crushed to death - believes any standing area could be dangerous.

"I'm totally against standing. I was at Hillsborough and I would not like to see standing brought back to football matches," Derbyshire told Sky Sports News HQ.

"It was unsafe then and it could be unsafe now. I think the only reason why the Liberal Democrats are bringing this in is to get more votes and what they are doing is wrong.

"What I witnessed on that day I don't want to witness again. We've been fighting this for 25 years now and I wouldn't want to see another family member go through the same.”

Leech, however, denied the Lid Dem proposal is about vote-buying and that safe standing would not see a return to the dangers of previous decades.

"We are not suggesting that we ought to go back to old style huge terraces like the Stretford End or the Kop," he said.

"What we are suggesting is introducing rail seating, which is a standing area with a seat on the back of a rail at every level so that you can't have the old crushes you did in big terraces. 

"You have areas with a designated standing position so that you can't have the situation you had at Hillsborough where you had far too many people packed into a small pen and other bits of the ground that weren't full.”

With the security at top modern football stadiums I cannot see why safe standing areas can not be revisited. I have no experience of safe standing for football games, but have visited Croke Park on many occasions for packed Dublin GAA games. Even with a stadium capacity of 82,000, the standing area "Hill 16" has never been anything but safe during my visits, and has superb atmosphere. Croke Park would not be the same without Hill 16.
- mylsey

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