Football League calls for safe-standing areas in Championship

Football Supporters' groups look at safe standing in grounds

Football League clubs have backed calls for the introduction of safe-standing areas at Championship grounds.

All-seater stadiums have been compulsory in the Championship and Premier League since an inquiry into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans.

Safe-standing areas, featuring retractable seats, have been introduced abroad, most notably in Germany.

At a Football League meeting, most of the 72 clubs voted for the plans.

Peter Daykin, safe-standing co-ordinator for the Football Supporters' Federation, welcomed the decision and urged the government to support its plans.

He told BBC Radio 5 live: "It's a very significant development in the campaign for standing areas in football.

"We're approaching 25 years since the Hillsborough disaster and both football and policing technology is a completely different ball game now."

On 15 April, 1989, during an FA Cup semi-final tie against Nottingham Forest at Sheffield Wednesday's Hillsborough stadium, 95 Liverpool fans were killed while a 96th was left in a coma and died in 1993.

In September 2012, Prime Minister David Cameron said the police had failed to do enough to stop the Leppings Lane end of the ground becoming overcrowded and found the safety of the crowds had been "compromised at every level".

Daykin says football stadia are much safer now, with improved attitudes and policing techniques.

He added: "If you unpick what happened at Hillsborough, we have successive reports, starting with the Taylor Report in 1990 and finishing with the Hillsborough Independent Panel Report, and they list the reasons why it took place.

"There are numerous reasons, including an attitude that didn't value football fans, where they were able to stand in areas without a safety certificate on crumbling terraces.

"The report also lists criminally negligent policing, poor stewarding, fences and all sorts of things that conspired for Hillsborough to happen.

"There were specific issues with the stadium architecture that exacerbated that but with a safe-standing area at Leppings Lane as it is today, then it wouldn't have happened."

However, Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, still opposes any plans to allow standing at football matches.

She told BBC Radio 5 live: "We have listened carefully to the arguments but, as far as the Hillsborough Family Support Group is concerned, we had a vote on this and it was a unanimous vote that there is no such thing as safe standing.

"I do not understand why people want to go backwards after so many steps forward."

A rail-seating system, where a seat can be unlocked or locked to create a standing or seated area, is used at some of Germany's biggest grounds, including at Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion, which has a capacity of more than 80,000.

Dr Clifford Stott, from the University of Leeds, is one of Europe's leading experts on football crowd management. He said: "Standing goes on all the time in areas designed for seating and it's more dangerous than if we moved to a rail seating system."

Malcolm Clarke, chair of the Football Supporters' Federation: "There is a significant issue about people standing in seating areas."

Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey believes that the issue has to be debated, but does not expect to see any potential changes implemented in the near future.

He said: "The consultation has given us a better understanding of the wide range of views held by clubs on this issue and we will take our cue from the prevailing opinion.

"We recognise this is both a complicated and sensitive matter that will need significant debate. Therefore, no-one should assume that it will lead to overnight change."

Blackburn managing director Derek Shaw said standing areas could help solve the issue facing most clubs where sections of fans stand in seating areas.

"If the option is there and the circumstances are right and everybody agrees it is safe, and it is passed by the authorities, then I think standing areas are absolutely fine," he said.

A spokesperson from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, added: "Safety for spectators in stadiums is absolutely paramount. The government will continue to work with football authorities on this issue."