(Above - safe standing rail seats in Klagenfurt, Austria)
Politicians from across the spectrum yesterday joined forces at the National Assembly for Wales to back Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) calls for a safe standing pilot. Assembly Members voted 26 to one in favour of the motion with 20 abstentions.
The legislation relating to standing isn't a devolved power, so the Welsh Government is unable to "opt out", but it gives a mandate for supportive politicians to lobby the Sports Minister, Helen Grant MP.
Assembly Members will now deliver an open letter to the Sports Minister urging her to introduce a pilot scheme in Wales and to remove legislation that unfairly stigmatises football fans. Both Cardiff City and Swansea City support the FSF's Safe Standing Campaign.
The ‘Individual Members Debate’ was being tabled by Assembly Members Andrew RT Davies, Ann Jones, Bethan Jenkins, and Aled Roberts following a visit by the FSF and the Safe Standing Roadshow to The Senedd in June.
Davies, who hosted the recent event, says that the time is right for the UK Government to look at the issues again with a view to amending the legislation to allow for the introduction of a limited trial of safe standing areas.
The motion proposed the National Assembly for Wales:
- Notes the overwhelming appetite amongst football supporters for the introduction of safe standing facilities;
- Calls on the Welsh Government to work closely with sport associations and regulatory authorities to promote safe standing at sports stadia in Wales;
- And calls on the UK Government to consider the introduction of a pilot of safe standing in Wales.
Read more about the Safe Standing Campaign and watch the debate below.
What Assembly Members say:
Andrew RT Davies, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives: “I have always thought that it is bizarre to suggest that standing at rugby matches or pop concerts is any safer than at football matches and given the collective will to move forward with a pilot scheme, I would be keen to see Wales leading the way on this issue.
“Football fans are unfairly stigmatised by a piece of legislation which was drafted in a different era, to address a different set of problems. Clearly fan safety has to be the top priority but the continental experience has shown that standing areas can be incorporated safely, dramatically improving the atmosphere at games.”
“I believe that it’s time for the UK Government to listen to the fans and to look at this issue again. I look forward to working proactively with colleagues from all sides of the National Assembly to take the discussion forward.”
Bethan Jenkins, Plaid Cymru Spokesperson for Sport: “It is the fans that are driving this campaign. As the lifeblood of the game, they should be listened to. Many of the myths surrounding standing areas need to be tackled and there should be a recognition that times have moved on - that technology, policing and fan behaviour have improved – and there needs to be change to reflect this.”
Aled Roberts, Liberal Democrat AM for North Wales: “Unfortunately, Wales is unable to opt-out of existing legislation. Therefore, I am urging the Welsh Government to promote safe standing and lobby for reform at the UK level.
“I also welcome the consensus that has emerged on this issue with members from all parties now recognising that there needs to be change to the unnecessary status quo.
“This is what loyal football supporters deserve. As committed Wrexham fans, my son and I would welcome the added atmosphere that safe standing would bring to the Racecourse Stadium.”
Ann Jones, Labour AM for Vale of Clwyd: “We need to introduce safe standing areas to ensure that disabled fans – like those in wheelchairs, don’t have their view spoiled by fellow fans standing when the game gets exciting. Safe standing should improve access to games for disabled fans.
“As long we can guarantee safety – I support the introduction of standing areas at grounds, to enhance the experience for all fans”.