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Safe standing in football stadiums an ‘open goal’, ministers told

Celtic’s new safe standing area for more than 2,000 fans being used for the first time ahead of the pre-season friendly match at Celtic Park, Glasgow (Jeff Holmes/PA) Photo: PA Archive/PA Images

MPs have piled pressure on the Government to back safe standing in football stadiums ahead of a major review of regulations.

Shadow sports minister Rosena Allin-Khan told ministers it was an “open goal” that had the backing of clubs, leagues and fans.

Standing in English football’s top two divisions was outlawed by the Football Spectators’ Act in 1989, following recommendations made in the Taylor Report on the Hillsborough disaster, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans.

But, after more than 100,000 people signed a petition which called for Premier League and Championship clubs to allow safe standing, the issue will be discussed in Parliament on June 25.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Dr Allin-Khan told ministers to “stop taking football fans for granted” and back the move.

She said: “I’ve met with safety authorities, I’ve met with supporters’ groups, I’ve met with clubs, I’ve met with leagues.

“They all have one thing in common – over the last three months they haven’t heard from Government ministers, which is why they’re bemused at the rushed review announced over two weeks ago.

“The Government needs to stop taking football fans for granted and start listening. The minister has an open goal. Can she make football safer by introducing safe standing? Is she going to listen?

MP portraits Credit: MP portraits

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, responding in the Commons, said: “I’m listening to a number of people from across the board of football, including the authorities.

“We’re looking at all the data and all the evidence and we will make a decision in due course.”

Earlier in the question session, Labour MP Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) asked why rugby league was treated differently from football.

She said: “My local football club, Rochdale AFC, plays at Spotland Stadium, which is also home to Rochdale Hornets Rugby League club, but if Rochdale AFC were promoted from League One to the Championship they would have to get rid of their standing area to the detriment of the rugby league fans.

“So can the minister explain why it’s safe to stand watching rugby but not safe to stand watching football?”

Ms Crouch responded, saying “there are variations in a number of policy matters between different sports”, again adding she would be reviewing the issue.

Labour MP Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington), who secured a question on the matter in the Commons, asked: “The truth is we already have standing at practically every football ground in the country, it’s just that it’s on terraces designed for seats rather than standing so it’s less safe.

“The majority of clubs and the leagues are now calling for safe standing so will the minister let the clubs work with the safe standing advisory groups to design a system that works for them?”

Ms Crouch again said she was “working very closely” with the football authorities on the issue.