‘The current system doesn’t work’: Former Manchester MP backs safe standing at football matches

The time has come for safe standing at football matches, according to Liberal Democrats councillor John Leech.

Top Premier League clubs have agreed to hold further discussions about the reintroduction of standing at games after the initial discussions were held between clubs on Thursday.

Cllr Leech, the former Manchester Withington MP, has been a long time campaigner for a move to safe standing within grounds and welcomed the news that the top sides are now considering the idea.

A survey by national fans group The Football Supporters Federation found 92% of spectators were in favour of the introduction, and, as a Manchester City season ticket holder of 34 years, the former Liberal Democrats’ Sports Spokesperson is amongst them.

Cllr Leech, who believes clubs should look at Celtic Park in Glasgow to see how successfully the reforms have been implemented there, said: “The current system simply doesn’t work; fans who attend matches still continue to stand, but do so unsafely.

“The solution is to introduce railed safe standing at football grounds which will make it safer for spectators, and which recognises and accommodates those fans who already, and will continue in the future to stand, while watching football.”

Germany, Austria and Sweden are just three of the countries that have already implemented safe standing arrangements in some of their stadiums

However, in England standing has been banned in football’s top two divisions since 1989 when 96 people died in the Hillsborough disaster.

The Hillsborough Justice Campaign has since come out to pledge its support of a thorough debate of the matter in question, whilst the Liverpool supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly has launched a consultation into the issues involved.

A Premier League Spokesman said that the safety of the fans is of paramount concern and as of yet there is no clear consensus amongst the top clubs.

He added: “This is a complex and emotive topic with a number of issues, varying from club to club, which need to be considered carefully before clubs can decide if they wish to pursue any changes, including legislative, that are required to allow them the option of safe standing areas in their grounds.

“The clubs have tasked the Premier League with scoping out the safety, supporter, technical and legislative issues surrounding safe standing before any further discussions, based on the facts, can take place.”

Cllr Leech, who also thinks it is important that fans are not priced out of going to games, added: “Safe standing offers supporters more choice, a better atmosphere and cheaper tickets.

“It is an idea whose time has come and I’m disappointed further progress hasn’t been made today, but I am pleased to hear that it hasn’t been ruled out and it will continue to be investigated.”

Out of the top tier sides that discussed safe standing, Everton confirmed they were not considering safe standing, Chelsea and Spurs are designing their new stadiums with standing in mind and David Gold, co-owner of West Ham, believed the discussions were the ‘first step’ towards the idea becoming reality.

Peter Daykin, a Football Supporters’ Federation campaign co-ordinator, said: “Fans have been asking for this to be looked at for many years now and it’s great to see clubs are willing to discuss it.”

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