Mar 23, 2011

Premier League to oppose standing

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Standing-only areas were removed on the recommendation of the Taylor Report following the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, but the FSF are calling for the return of terraces in the top two divisions for English football.

However, Premier League chief spokesman Dan Johnson said that the organisation will not be backing to the proposals.

"Our view is that the benefits of all-seater stadia far outweigh the return of standing areas," Johnson said. "They have led to more women and more children attending the games and no matter how safe standing can be made, seating is always safer. We will not be encouraging the Government to change the law."

The FA echoed the Premier League's, with a spokesman telling ESPNsoccernet: "The FA does not support the introduction of safe-standing at football grounds in the top two divisions.

"Since the Taylor Report and the introduction of all-seater stadia crowd management and the supporter experience has improved significantly. In matters of safety and security we consider the advice of the police and the licensing authorities to be paramount and they remain clear on this issue."

Representatives from the police, government and football authorities met with the FSF on Monday in a bid to kick-start their campaign, with the organisation's chairman Malcolm Clarke claiming that many fans choose to stand despite having a seat.

"Fans do believe they have lost something in the move to all-seating," Clarke told The Guardian. "We will be doing further research to respond to the concerns of those who are not yet convinced."

The 'Safe Standing' camapign has been bubbling under the surface for some time, but the Premier League's planned opposition will come as a blow, just as the FSF was planning to step up its lobbying of the Government for a change in the law.

Sports minister Hugh Robertson admitted the law was unlikely to change because the risk of a major incident would be too high, saying: "The minister's head would be on a spike on Tower Bridge before he could draft a resignation letter."

Liverpool's involvement in the Heysel and Hillsborough tragedies would appear to make them likely opponents of the reintroduction of standing areas, but former Reds striker David Fairclough feels that as long as the safety of fans is guranteed, the FSF's proposals could be implemented.

"In a controlled environment, plenty of countries around Europe have shown it can work," Fairclough told ESPNsoccernet. "Even in the Premier League, you find that fans who buy tickets for sit-down areas will still stand for the whole of the game.

"I went to West Ham away recently with Liverpool and everyone was standing up; as long as the barriers are secure I think there is scope to reintroduce some standing areas, though it couldn't work like the Kop used to be, with seas of open terraces.

"More standing room should also see a reduction in ticket prices, which can only be a good thing for the fans." 

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