Safety officers criticise Government’s safe standing stance

PA 35878329 West Brom

The body representing football safety officers has criticised the Government’s decision to reject West Bromwich Albion’s application for a safe standing pilot.

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch rejected West Brom’s proposals on Monday  and angered supporters later in the week, dismissing the case for safe standing and arguing it was only sought by a “vocal minority”.

Now the Football Safety Officers Association (FSOA) have publicly criticised the Government’s stance on the issue, claiming a pilot at West Brom would be a “perfect opportunity to gather much-needed data” on rail seating.

“Something must be done to tackle this issue,” the FSOA said this morning. “And the introduction of an alternative such as ‘rail seating’ or other systems currently being developed to enhance safety should not be ignored.

“West Bromwich Albion’s bid to trial a safe-standing section in the Smethwick End was submitted after lengthy research across Europe and also at Celtic, where similar systems are already working successfully.

“The pilot would have provided the perfect opportunity to gather much-needed data and feedback with the view of possibly introducing similar systems at grounds across England and Wales in future.”

The Sports Minister told the Press Association that she wanted to see rules around persistent standing more strictly enforced.

Her comments lead to a backlash from supporters on social media and a safe standing petition became the fastest growing on the Government’s official petition page – at the time of writing it had secured 39,000 signatures.

“However, we move forward in future, the safety of spectators must always remain paramount,” the FSOA said. “But it seems that as we strive to improve standards of safety already achieved at our grounds, the Government is then choosing to ignore what may prove to be a safer alternative to standing in seated areas.

“It is disappointing that the rejection of West Bromwich Albion’s bid means the club will not be able to explore this option of safe-standing to enable positive change and enhance match day safety at all grounds going forward.”

Thanks to PA Images for the image used in this article.