Safe Standing at Football Grounds: Why not lift the ban and let the market decide?

The Football Supporters Foundation (FSF) today launched a petition to allow Safe Standing at Premiership football grounds, amid some support, but also to some incredulity. The FSF have been campaigning for this for some years, producing a report in 2007, “The Case for Safe Standing at Major League Football Stadia in England and Wales: A 21st Century Solution”, to which some of my research made a very small contribution.

Some of the incredulity at the Safe Standing campaign is in the belief that the issue is long dead and buried and there is no appetite to revisit it, some in the belief that standing was identified in the Taylor Report (1990) as the key factor in the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy, and some in the belief that there is no demand for Safe Standing.

But, some not-at-all-new facts about standing at football grounds:

  • There is nothing in the Taylor Report that suggests standing is inherently unsafe.
  • Standing is allowed at lower league grounds, so surely safety can’t be the key issue?
  • Fans stand in seated areas at Premiership grounds every week, blocking the view of those who wish to sit.
  • Standing in designated seated areas is far less safe than in designated Safe Standing areas.
  • Undoubtedly, there is demand for Safe Standing, what is not known is the extent of that demand.

The FSF petition is not campaigning for “all-standing” stadia, neither is it campaigning to mandate clubs to introduce standing areas. It is campaigning to remove the legislation that outlaws Safe Standing at Premiership grounds, legislation intended to ban the terraces of the seventies, not the modern Safe Standing technology of today. So rather than arguing about whether there is demand for Safe Standing areas, why not lift the ban and let the market decide?