"One of the arguments put forward [by opponents] is that safe standing discriminates against women," said The Case for Safe Standing in Football panellist Fiona McGee, a researcher, writer and Leeds United fan who has followed the club across the country for more than 20 years.
“To me and to most women the decision whether or not to sit or to stand at football matches is a matter of personal choice. The argument against introducing safe standing because it somehow discriminates against women football fans I find to be a particularly spurious one,” says Fiona.
“I’ve been to Peterborough for the past two seasons and have the choice whether to stand or sit and I always choose to stand. I can’t remember the last time I went away with Leeds and sat down.
“We always stand - and I prefer to do that - but there are other people who would prefer to sit down and they don’t actually have that choice. To trial safe standing is the only sensible way forward.”
However, the Premier League have used the argument that standing scares women off from football to justify the top-flight standing ban. They told the BBC: “Since the introduction of all-seater stadia the supporter experience has improved significantly and we have seen more diverse crowds attending Premier League matches, including more women and children.”
The FSF doesn't believe it's an argument that stands up to scrutiny.
Football stadiums should be welcoming places for fans of all background, regardless of age, disability, race, sex or any other identifying factor. But we would dispute the underlying assumption that younger or female supporters do not support safe standing.
The FSF’s 2012 Annual Survey results said:
- 85% of female fans backed the choice to sit or stand;
- One in three preferred to stand, given the choice;
- 93% of those who preferred to stand cited “better atmosphere” as a reason for this choice.
Writing in The Guardian in April 2012 Alastair Campbell, ex-Director of Communications at Number 10, quite rightly pointed out that the “underlying assumption that female fans will somehow be scared off by those boisterous boys in the standing corner is a bit patronising anyway. Plenty of women choose to stand too.”
Peterborough United Chief Executive Bob Symns also makes a compelling case arguing that the club’s existing standing facilities are “full of men, women, children, youngsters, senior citizens; they just prefer to stand.”
The next time one of the football authorities chooses to blithely state that standing scares off women and children, they should bring actual evidence.
Thanks to Peterborough United for the image used in this story.