Sunderland AFC’s safety manager Paul Weir is the latest in a growing list of the game’s senior figures to back safe standing. In an interview with fanzine A Love Supreme Weir backed the key tenet of the Football Supporters' Federation's argument - that fans should have the choice to sit or stand in safety.
“As a club we would like to give fans who want to stand the opportunity to do so in a safe, appropriately designated area. The rail seats concept looks interesting and if the rules allowed it I’d be happy to manage standing fans in such areas,” said Weir.
Weir joins Peterborough United chief executive Bob Symns, who earlier this month gave his backing to safe standing, even offering to use the club’s London Road ground to trial safe standing areas if Parliament and the football authorities would authorise it.
Earlier this year Aston Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner voiced his support while the Scottish Premier League has also said it would like to trial safe standing areas. In July Derby County and Nigel Clough followed suit while Wembley architect John Barrow of Populous said safe standing areas could be introduced “without any problems at all”. Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has also said he is “open” to safe standing.
Weir was speaking after a visit by the Safe Standing Roadshow to Sunderland’s Stadium of Light. The Roadshow, which has made more than twenty appearances at football grounds over the past year, demonstrates how safe standing can work, with a small-scale model of the rail seating system which is used in stadia in Germany.
Jon Darch, who manages the Safe Standing Roadshow, said: “Many Premier League and Championship grounds are all-seater in name only, with many fans taking it for granted that they will stand regardless. That creates an unnecessary headache for safety professionals such as Paul, and inconveniences other spectators who prefer to sit.
“The solution is properly designated standing areas fitted with rail seats. This would enable fans who want to stand to do so in complete safety, ensuring that those who prefer to sit are not inconvenienced.”
Peter Daykin, the FSF’s Safe Standing Campaign co-ordinator, welcomed Weir’s comments. “There’s a real head of steam gathering behind safe standing and we hope those in positions of power take note – it’s not just fans who would like safe standing areas, so would many of the industry’s leading figures.”
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