Safe Standing Facts

Do you oppose safe standing? In our experience opposition to safe standing is often based on misunderstanding and miscomprehension . You're perfectly entitled to your opinion but please take a few minutes to read our Safe Standing Mythbuster here. It might win you over.

1. What is ‘safe standing’? 
2. Who wants safe standing? 
3. What are the benefits of safe standing?
4. Is it really safe? 
5. The legalities - what has to change?
6. Aims and objectives

1. What is ‘safe standing’?

  • Safe standing refers to specific models of modern standing accommodation such as those permitted in Germany, Sweden, and Austria as well as standing technologies deemed to be safe for matches in League One and below by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published Green Guide.
  • Where clubs have a realistic opportunity of European competition, the ‘rail seat’ model is usually most appropriate. Rail seats allow entire stands (or sections of a stand) to be easily converted from standing to seating and back again whenever required at no cost.
  • Rail seats incorporate a safety barrier and a flip-down seat on every other row (or step). These seats can be locked in an upright position for domestic games, allowing two rows of supporters to stand in between barriers. Supporters can thus be given a designated ‘seat’ (or standing plot) but watch the game while standing. With only two rows of fan per barrier there is no danger of a crush or progressive crowd collapse, and this technology facilitates the inclusion of up to 80% more supporters than a seated area of similar size.
  • Rail seats are not the only type of safe standing area – other designs are used throughout Europe too. VfL Bochum use ‘clip-on seats’ (safety barriers clipped into place every few rows which can be replaced with seats) while Hamburg SV use ‘foldaway seats’ in some areas of the ground (each seat is stored under a metal step and can be folded out).

What safe standing isn’t!

  • Safe standing areas are not a ‘return to the terraces of the 1980s’ and it is factually incorrect to highlight stories relating to safe standing with images of terraces from past decades (see the link below for free, high resolution images of safe standing areas).
  • ‘Old style’ football terraces were typically characterised by large concourses and vestibules leading onto the back of massive terrace with little to stop the forward movement of fans and fences at the bottom. No football fans are suggesting a return to these arrangements.

Dozens of high resolution safe standing images are available for media use, free of charge, from this link...

Below left - Rail seats in Klagenfurt (Austria). 
Below right - Bob Symns (chief executive, Peterborough United - middle row, centre) and representatives of Peterborough City Council with Jon Darch (Safe Standing Roadshow) and Hannover 96 staff among rail seats in the AWD Arena (Germany).

Posh group in AWD Arena2

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2. Who wants safe standing?

  • Supporter surveys regularly show that upwards of eight out of every ten fans back the choice to sit or stand at football. Choice is a key word here as no one is suggesting all fans should have to stand, rather that those who would like to so should be able to do so in safety.
  • The FSF’s National Supporter Survey 2009 asked: “Do you think supporters should have the choice of sitting or standing, including having areas specifically designed for safe standing.” 89.8 per cent of 5,470 respondents answered ‘Yes’. More than half (50.2 per cent) of 5,503 respondents said they preferred to stand. By 2012's FSF National Supporter Survey this had risen to 92 per cent.
  • The Football Fans Census 2007 found that 92 per cent of 2,100 respondents wanted to see safe standing areas at their club (BBC, ‘Calls grow for return of terraces’, 14th March 2007)
  • Support for safe standing among female fans is also very strong. 82 per cent of female fans think there should be a choice to sit or stand at football while 29.7 per cent would prefer to stand. (FSF National Supporter Survey 2009).
  • In April 2010 The Guardian asked: “Don Foster, the liberal democrat spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport, has suggested providing safe standing areas in football stadiums. Is this a sensible proposal?” 92.4% of respondents said ‘Yes’.
  • In March 2011 The Guardian asked: “Would you like to see terracing return? The Guardian has revealed that the government will listen to the case for reintroducing terracing almost 22 years after the Hillsborough disaster. Would you like to be able to stand at top-level games again?” 76.4% said ‘Yes’.
  • In October 2011 a Daily Star Sunday survey found that: “66.3% of football fans would support a return to standing. Only 17.3% opposed it, with the rest undecided. And if seats were ripped out, 73.5% would consider standing at games.”
  • In November 2011 Talksport asked: “Should we have safe standing zones in football stadia?” 91% said ‘Yes’.
  • A growing number of football clubs in England and Wales are also open to the possibility of safe standing areas. The media has reported one example in the Premier League and the FSF understands several Championship clubs are interested in exploring the possibility of safe standing areas. (Birmingham Mail, ‘Aston Villa set to introduce safe standing area at Villa Park’, 17th January 2012)
  • Other significant industry figures such as Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis, Populous architect John Barrow (Wembley/Soccer City), and current UK Football Safety Officers’ Association president Jim Chalmers all back safe standing. (FSF website, ‘Wembley architect: Safe standing no problem’, 9th November 2011)
  • The Scottish Premier League has signalled its intention to trial safe standing areas – Celtic and Rangers are two of the move’s biggest supporters. Glasgow City Council has backed the Old Firm plans. (Daily Record, ‘Council backs Old Firm plans for terraces but Tartan Army get the bums rush’, 18th January 2012)
  • An online poll by The Gooner showed that eight out of 10 Arsenal fans wanted a safe standing trial at the Emirates, and an identical amount believed it would improve the atmosphere. More than half of the respondents said that they personally would prefer to watch from a safe standing area.

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3. What are the benefits of safe standing?

  • The FSF’s National Supporter Survey 2009 asked: “What is the single most important reason you like to stand at matches?” 71.6 per cent of 4,287 cited ‘Better atmosphere’. Supporters have very real fears about the atmospheres at games going stale and feel safe standing offers a solution.
  • Three out of every four fans who prefer to stand at games have been told/asked to sit by a steward or police officer (FSF National Supporter Survey 2009).
  • Standing in seated areas is a continuing source of friction between the fans and the authorities, particularly at away games. We regularly hear stories about fans ejected for persistent standing in seated areas. Introduce safe standing areas and this public order problem disappears.
  • The Taylor Report, commissioned in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 and published in January 1990, suggested that fans would get used to sitting down. More than two decades on, this is clearly not the case in practise. Many fans stand week-in, week-out in areas designed for sitting. We believe this is less safe than standing in modern areas properly designed for the job.
  • This isn’t just about those who prefer to stand. By giving supporters the choice, everyone benefits. Those who wish to stand can do so, while those who prefer to sit no longer have to worry about their view being blocked. No one should be forced to stand – although ironically many are forced to do just that because of the current all-seater rule. The FSF is regularly contacted by fans in this position.
  • Because standing areas typically accommodate a higher density of supporters, ticket prices are typically lower than in seated areas. As a result stadiums containing standing areas tend to be more socially inclusive and benefit from greater elasticity in pricing. For example, season tickets in standing areas at Bayern Munich start at €180 (£150) and are far more affordable to young fans. Comparable English clubs include Manchester United (cheapest season ticket £532), Liverpool (£725), and Arsenal (£951). The average Premier League season ticket holder is white, male, and in his 40s.
  • At some grounds standing terraces have been converted into seated areas. This accommodation can be cramped and taller supporters often struggle to sit down comfortably. Shallow rakes can also make for poor sightlines while even Lord Taylor noted that sitting in an uncovered terrace is far more unpleasant than standing in one on a dank day. Yet uncovered seated terraces exist to this day.
  • Travelling fans add immeasurably to the spectacle of football as a live sport. A passionate away following encourages home fans to raise their game to help their team. Yet some of the country’s largest away supports are seeing their ticket allocations cut on a regular basis. Safety Advisory Groups can (and do) cut the number of tickets offered to the visiting side as punishment for persistent standing. This is damaging the atmosphere of our sport and encourages away fans to procure pockets of tickets in home areas, greatly increasing risk of disorder.

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4. Is it really safe?

  • Supporters of Safe Standing do not propose that the stringent safety standards laid down in the DCMS’s Green Guide be abolished or weakened. We do think that supporters of Premier League or Championship clubs should be allowed the choice to stand in safety, in exactly the same way that fans of other divisions are - the idea that safety depends upon the quality of football played on the pitch is self-evidently absurd.
  • There is now general agreement from the Government and other public bodies that the statistics do not show seated areas to be safer than standing areas.
  • The Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA, formerly the Football Licensing Authority, or FLA) collects statistics on numbers and types of injuries at each ground in England and Wales. Injury rates are very low in both all-seated stadia and those that contain standing and information is not recorded about where in the ground injuries occur (seats, standing area, concourse etc).
  • Safe standing areas have not proved to be a safety risk in Austria, Canada, Germany, Sweden and the USA, countries that treat safety with the same respect as the UK.
  • The Hillsborough disaster was not caused by standing – see Myths and misconceptions for more.

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5. The legalities - what has to change?

  • It is unclear whether a change in the law is required to introduce rail-seated safe standing areas into the Premier League or Championship. Many fans believe ‘persistent standing’ is illegal but this is not the case. The law only dictates that clubs should provide seats for all supporters, not that supporters must sit on them. The point is confirmed by the DCMS: “At no point has it been argued that the individual spectator commits a criminal offence by standing in a seated area.” (Letter to the FSF, 2008).
  • Standing in a seated area is, however, contrary to ground regulations in the Premier League and Championship and thus a breach of civil law (i.e. the contract between a customer/business or in this case fan/club) rather than criminal law which is an offence against the state (i.e. an ‘illegal’ act). These ground regulations can be changed by the clubs themselves - in the Premier League a majority of 14 clubs (from 20) is needed to implement such a change.
  • As standing is a civil matter, it is up to individual clubs, not the police, to manage. Some clubs turn a blind eye to standing in seated areas whereas others are very strict in attempting to eject people who stand. This can cause public order issues as fans become frustrated with these inconsistencies and little evidence exists to show that this approach works. (See FSF website, ‘Bluebirds walk out in show of solidarity, 2nd November 2011’).
  • The situation is different in relation to accommodation solely designed for standing (no seats are provided) or rail seated areas with higher density safe standing (between 1 and 1.8 standing fans for every 1 seat, as allowed in the Government’s Green Guide).
  • The Football Spectators Act (1989) says that the Secretary of State may direct the FLA to make an all-seated stadium a condition of the license required to hold a Premier League or Championship match. As the FLA is permitted to consult with the Secretary of State (DCMS) the all-seater requirement could be relaxed without the need for new legislation.
  • Safety Advisory Groups (SAGs) at local councils do have the power to cut ticket allocations or (in extreme circumstances) to refuse safety certificates and prevent games going ahead altogether. The trigger for this can be persistent standing in seated areas. However, SAGs take their lead from the Secretary of State/FLA – if they were to give the go-ahead to safe standing areas local SAGs would not object.

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6. Aims and objectives

To persuade the Government, football authorities and football clubs to accept the case for introducing, on a trial basis, limited sections of standing areas at selected grounds in the stadiums of Premier League and Championship football clubs. Dozens of clubs now back the campaign, find out who here.

The FSF is the national supporters’ organisation for all football fans - find out more about us here.

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Read more about the FSF's Safe Standing Campaign here.