(Above - the Safe Standing Roadshow in the Welsh Assembly, overlooking Cardiff Bay)
Welsh Assembly Members from all political parties have backed supporters’ calls for a pilot of safe standing areas at football grounds, following an event organised by the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies.
The event, which took place yesterday (Tuesday 3rd June 2014), was attended by the Football Supporters’ Federation, the Safe Standing Roadshow, and supporters’ trusts from both Cardiff City and Swansea City.
Labour AM Ann Jones, Liberal Democrat AM Eluned Parrott, Plaid AM Bethan Jenkins, and many others from each party also came along to see what safe standing is all about.
A long standing supporter of the campaign, Andrew RT Davies has said he would be keen to see Wales “leading the way” on the issue of safe standing. He reiterated his backing for a limited trial of standing areas at football grounds in the top two divisions of the game.
UK Government legislation currently prohibits standing areas in the top two divisions of professional football. Davies has suggested that the time is right for the UK Government to look at the issues again and amend legislation to allow for the introduction of a limited trial of safe standing areas.
“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,” said Davies.
“Football fans are 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 look at this issue again and I look forward to working proactively with colleagues to take the discussion forward.”
Safe standing has previously received broad cross-party backing from AMs of all four parties at the Assembly in a Statement of Opinion.
More quotes from yesterday's event:
Ann Jones AM, Labour member for the Vale of Clwyd said: “Safety at matches is paramount and it is important that we learn from the tragic lessons of the past. Almost half of the top German teams have installed rail seats which facilitate safe standing without compromising on safety.
“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.”
Michael Brunskill, spokesperson at the Football Supporters' Federation, said: “Most professional football clubs in England and Wales now back safe standing as do the overwhelming majority of fans. Both Cardiff City and Swansea City have supported the FSF's Safe Standing Campaign but a level of political will is required to make it happen - with that in mind it was very encouraging to see members of the Welsh Assembly taking an interest in the issue."
Jon Darch, operator of the Safe Standing Roadshow, said: “With more and more clubs, including Cardiff and Swansea, joining calls from supporters' organisations for the government in London to take a proper look at safe standing, it is great to see the Welsh Assembly being proactive in this area.
“It seems almost certain that rail seats will be introduced later this year in Scotland, where the relevant Westminster legislation doesn't apply, and it would be most odd for standing behind such seats at football matches in one home nation to be deemed safe, while in others the London-based authorities won't even permit trials. Hopefully this event may help to change that.”
Tim Hartley, Chair of Cardiff City Supporters Trust, said: “Cardiff City has a very innovative approach to standing at matches and supporters know where and when they can stand.
“However we believe that a limited pilot of safe standing, based on the continental model, and a change in the regulations would allow clubs and supporters to decide whether to bring back safe terracing.
“We all fondly remember the great days at Cardiff City of big crowds standing shoulder to shoulder. Not everyone wants to stand, but at least allow the fans a choice.”