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Safe standing explained: why Labour want to change football's laws

Liverpool fans safe standing

Labour would legalise safe standing at Premier League and Championship football matches before the start of next season if the party wins a general election, FourFourTwo can reveal.

Writing exclusively for FFT, the party’s Shadow Sports Minister Rosena Allin-Khan says that she would “personally ensure that safe standing is introduced in time for the 2020/21 football season” if Labour comes to power.

Allin-Khan announced Labour’s support for safe standing last summer, but with a general election now expected imminently, she has now said the policy – allowing “small areas” of grounds to be designated for standing with the right infrastructure in place – would be introduced in the first months of government.

Standing at matches in the top two division was phased out following the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 and subsequent Taylor Report, which recommended the adoption of all-seater stadiums. While rules were softened for lower-league and non-league matches, standing at Premier League and Championship games is illegal. 

Enforcement for these rules lies largely with football clubs themselves, and fans can be ejected from grounds for ‘persistent standing’. Clubs can’t formally allow standing in grounds without a change in law from the government.

But the sight of fans standing is still common, raising concerns that fans are put more at risk by the lack of infrastructure to allow for safe standing. With increasing pressure from supporters’ groups, authorities have begun to explore the feasibility of introducing safe standing areas in stadiums, including rail seating – meaning that tickets would still be issued for specific seats, and a rail in front of the seat would prevent spectators falling forwards when stood up.

“The decision should rest with those who know their stadiums the best: fans, clubs and local authorities – not the government,” writes Allin-Khan. “Increasingly, more and more clubs are supporting the introduction of safe standing areas and are adapting their stadiums to be ready for a change in the law.

“Clubs, fans and safety authorities should have the power to allow for a small area inside a stadium to be designated for safe standing.”

In Scotland, Celtic have trialled safe standing with 2,600 rail seats, while in the Premier League, Wolves and Tottenham have also installed areas with rail seats. Last month, FFT revealed that Manchester United are also planning a “detailed and comprehensive study” on the possibility of rail seats at Old Trafford.

Currently, no general election is planned until 2022, but MPs are expected to vote in favour of an early election at some point in the coming months.

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