Support for standing at football stadiums grows, but strong opposition remains

Calls for the introduction of a pilot of new standing technology - called rail seats - at football grounds

A growing number of Premier League and Championship clubs favour the introduction of safe standing – with Aston Villa and Peterborough prepared to host small-scale trials – but opposition to the return of standing in the top-two tiers of English football remains among senior police officers, whose advice the government pay close heed to.

While an increasing number of match commanders – the officers in charge of policing games – are also believed to have been persuaded that a safe-standing trial should be held, those above them, represented by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) are wary. “We need to be convinced,” said a spokesperson, but the body is happy to “engage” in the debate.

The introduction of standing areas is also strongly opposed by members of the Hillsborough Families Support Group. Margaret Aspinall, chair of the HFSG, said: “Standing should never, ever come back. I do not think there is anything safe about standing. I feel insulted that while people are trying to fight for justice for Hillsborough, that this campaign is growing now.”

The Football Supporters Federation’s campaign for its re-introduction in the top tiers in English and Scottish football, based on the “rail-seating” model widely and successfully used in Germany, has gathered momentum, and increasingly vocal support among clubs, supporters and members of Parliament. Roger Godsiff, MP for Birmingham Hall Green, hosted a discussion in Parliament. Over 50 MPs have backed his early day motion for a trial to be conducted in the top two tiers.

Standing is banned in the Premier League. In the Championship promoted clubs have to have all-seated stadium by their third season in the division – a prospect Peterborough face if they stay up this season. The club want to host a trial at one end of London Road, which accommodates around 2,000 supporters. Villa have identified a smaller area of around 150 seats next to the Holte End which could be used.

“Whenever we have discussed the topic with our fans we have had almost unanimous support for such a trial,” said Paul Faulkner, Villa’s chief executive. “We fully support the FSF’s campaign to allow small-scale trials of safe standing areas. We believe Villa Park could be potentially used for such a trial and would like the opportunity to progress plans further.”

Superintendent Steven Graham of West Midlands Police, an experienced match-day commander at Villa and Birmingham City, supports a trial. “As a commander we would not be riddled with fear if overseeing a standing area,” he said.

West Ham United’s David Gold has also spoken in support of standing, while clubs at the upper end of the Premier League are also understood to favour trials but are unwilling to say so in public. The Premier League and the government remain opposed to any change from the current regulations.

In Scotland, Celtic and Aberdeen favour introducing limited standing areas. That will be a decision for the Scottish government and there is considerably less opposition to its re-introduction north of the border. If it does return in the Scottish Premier League, it would make it more difficult for the government to prevent English or Welsh clubs following suit.

Cardiff City support the idea and if the club could secure Welsh Assembly backing for its introduction that too could have wider implications for English leagues. The same applies to Swansea, who are currently looking for ways to increase the capacity of the Liberty Stadium. The FSF suggest that 1,800 standing supporters could be accommodated where 1,000 sit, although whether ground authorities would permit that ratio on safety lines is open to question.

Currently large groups of supporters stand at many grounds, a practice the authorities admit is almost impossible to stop. Supporters of safe standing argue that its introduction would make grounds safer as the current practice of standing in seated areas is potentially dangerous.

“We have got very little experience of what standing would look like in a 21st century football ground in the UK,” said Superintendent Green. “We have experience of it from the 1980's in the UK and we have experiences of it today in Germany. We are not proposing tearing up football grounds. We need to start gathering some data so that people in the industry can make decisions to give supporters the best customer experience.”

Bob Symns, Peterborough’s chief executive, believes standing is “endemic” in English football. If the club has to introduce seating areas on its current banks of terracing from next season, he has little doubt that many supporters will chose to stand in them.

“That’s a challenge we have in this country – people will stand in the seated areas,” said Symns. “Let’s have a look at the third way, a new way. There is an appetite from supporters but there probably isn’t an appetite from football authorities.”

Symns believes most clubs in the Championship would support at least a trial. The campaign is openly supported by Villa, Brentford, Bristol City, Burnley, Cardiff City, Crystal Palace, Derby County, Doncaster Rovers, Hull City, Peterborough United, Watford, AFC Wimbledon as well as the Scottish Premier League.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot