Sports minister's suggestion of bringing back standing tickets for matches angers Hillsborough relatives

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The Independent Online
The relatives of victims of the Hillsborough disaster yesterday condemned proposals to return terracing to football grounds. Jojo Moyes examines the arguments as they prepared to meet the judge who could bring about a public inquiry into the tragedy.

The Hillsborough Family Support Group reacted angrily yesterday to comments by the sports minister Tony Banks that a return to standing room at certain football matches "was an idea worth considering".

"Quite a lot of seating that I have seen is not that permanent, it is fairly easily removable," Mr Banks said. "If you can easily alter the configuration of grounds so that it would be all-seater where there were international requirements, but on certain occasions there would be standing, that would seem to be a very sensible approach," he told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme.

All-seater stadiums were introduced in the wake of the 1989 tragedy, in which 96 people died. Mr Banks's comments came just days after Manchester United chairman Martin Edwards said his club would be willing to restore terracing if the Government relaxed regulations.

But Phil Hammond, vice-chairman of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, said they were "totally against any return of standing areas in football grounds".

"There could never be safe terracing. We should be looking towards creating sports stadiums like those in America, modern, all-seated facilities," he said. "When you have a seat you have a space that will be there if you stand up for a goal or go to get some refreshments and that space is always there for you, it is safe and comfortable."

He dismissed suggestions that all-seater stadiums were putting fans off watching football because of ticket prices or a lack of atmosphere. "I am going to Anfield today to watch Liverpool," added Mr Hammond, whose son, Philip, died in the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy.

This week the Court of Appeal judge Lord Justice Stuart-Smith is in Liverpool for three days for relatives to present him with information they have gathered about the disaster and particularly the role played by police on the day. He will look at new evidence that may cast doubt on other inquiries into the disaster and the inquest verdict of accidental death.

Last week senior family representatives met the judge in London, where they presented closed circuit camera footage which they believe shows police were aware of danger signs leading up to the crush on the Lepping Lane terraces.