Welsh Conservatives call for safe standing powers

Andrew Rt Davies Safe standing

The Welsh Conversatives have renewed their call for safe standing to be piloted in Wales, asking for certain stadium powers to be devolved.

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies is calling for the devolution of responsibility for sports ground safety and management to the Welsh Assembly. The plans would enable a safe standing pilot to be undertaken in Wales.

Mr Davies, having previously met with Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, will write to her to formally request the transfer of powers to the Welsh Assembly.

"Our plans would allow a limited pilot of safe standing areas in Welsh grounds. The transfer of this power is necessary to enable clubs to press on with a pilot in Wales; a pilot that would address the concerns of sceptics and build a case for a wider roll-out throughout the UK of limited areas, akin to those routinely available in stadiums across the continent," said Mr Davies.

If granted such powers, it would give Wales some parity with Scotland, where local authorities can already make decisions on safe standing. Last summer, Celtic were given the go-ahead to more than 2,000 install rail seats at Celtic Park. They are expected to be in place for next season.

"Safe standing is a question of fairness," Mr Davies said. "How can it be safe to stand at a rugby match or a concert yet somehow inherently unsafe to stand at the football - often in the same stadiums?

"That simple distinction has never made any sense outside of the context of social attitudes towards football supporters in the 1980s. We wouldn’t accept that kind of discrimination against any other social group or demographic, so why accept it when it’s levelled at football fans?"

The overwhelming majority of football fans support the introduction of safe standing in England and Wales. A survey published by the Welsh Conservatives last year showed 96% of fans back the return of standing areas.

Peter Daykin, safe standing coordinator at the Football Supporters' Federation, said: "It’s great to see such resounding support for safe standing from political figures across the UK.

"The FSF has always believed that if supporters argue their case with intelligence, passion, patience, and reason, then football and politicians will listen.

"There now seems to be an irresistible demand for a safe standing pilot to be run in Wales and the FSF hopes that progress can be made."

Under Welsh Conservative proposals the Sports Ground Safety Authority would continue to monitor safety at grounds. However, the devolution of responsibility for regulation would enable a Welsh Conservative Government to lift the ban on standing areas and hold a pilot in Wales, where there is cross party backing for safe standing following a vote in 2014.