The issue of 'safe standing' at professional football matches is one that has provoked many heated discussions in the UK. Some fan groups, like the Football Supporters' Federation (fsf.org.uk), argue that most football fans in the country think they should be given a choice of whether they sit or stand whilst watching top-flight football.
The Taylor Report, published in the aftermath of the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989, where 96 Liverpool fans died after being crushed on a standing terrace at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium during their team's FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest, led to the ruling that all major stadia in the United Kingdom should be all-seated. While the standing terrace at Hillsborough was found not to be the main cause of the crush, this has been the case since August 1994, with some top-flight and second tier clubs having to refurbish, or in some cases completely rebuild, their stadia.
Every weekend, at matches across the country, thousands of supporters stand in seated areas, causing problems with safety stewards, police forces, and supporters who wish to remain seated. There have been reports of fans having their season tickets confiscated and/or being banned from grounds having been judged to be persistently standing during games. This is despite the fact that the law states that clubs must provide an all-seater stadium but does not say that fans are obliged to sit on them.
So what is the solution?
The model that groups like the FSF are in favour of is demonstrated in some of the biggest stadia in Germany, where supporters of Bundesliga teams who wish to watch the match on their feet do so in designated 'safe standing' sections of the ground.
How does it work? The most common concept on safe standing terraces in European football are known as 'rail seats', where there is a safety barrier and seat on every row, the seats are locked in an upright position for domestic games. For European games, such as in the Champions League and Europa League (where, like the UK, stadia must be all-seated), a member of staff simply works their way along the rows and unlocks the rail seats.23 of the 92 clubs in the Football League have expressed their support to trial a similar concept in the Premier League and Championship. The Scottish Premier League have also confirmed it is something they are open to.
With disasters such as Hillsborough still fresh in the memory, although not because of the safe standing debate, trialling safe standing sections appears to be something that authorities in the UK will be reluctant to approve.
But what do YOU think? Should safe standing terraces be introduced into professional football in the UK?
Have YOUR say below.
For more information on the Football Supporters' Federation's Safe Standing campaign, visit: www.fsf.org.uk/campaigns/safe-standing/