Safe standing debate at Parliament concerns Hillsborough football disaster families

Parliament will discuss the possible introduction of safe standing for the Premier League and Football League on June 25 after a petition in favour of debating the issue reached 110,000 signatures.

Campaigners expect safe standing areas to be a feature of Premier League club stadiums by 2021.

Members of the Football Supports Federation (FSF) also met with a committee of MPs on Tuesday 1 May.

The Football Spectators Act, which was introduced as a response to the Taylor report in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster, requires all-seated stadiums in the top two divisions of English football, but this currently doesn’t extend to Scotland.

Peter Daykin, an FSF board member, gave a presentation and answered questions at a meeting with approximately 20 members of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Football Supporters.

Speaking to the Independent, Mr Daykin said: “This isn’t something that is going to happen quickly. It is something that deserves proper attention and requires robust debate.”

Critical of The Football Spectators Act, he added: “It feels like from within the people who work in football – safety officers, stewards, police – there is a coalescence of opinion that something has to change from here and the current legislation isn’t working.”

Those in favour of the new style of rail seating believe momentum is building after Crystal Palace became the first top-level club to come out in favour of the change on Monday 30 April.

Bosses at Selhurst Park, where a substantial number of fans prefer to stand for entire games, asked for the subject to be debated in Parliament.

Liverpool fans are split on the topic, with fans from the Spirit of Shankly (SOS) union largely in favour of the change, but families who lost loved ones at the 1989 Hillsborough disaster are upset at the thought of standing at games returning to the sport.

The night before the campaign was officially launched, the English Football League (EFL) contacted three campaign groups who had a heavy involvement with the Justice for the 96 movement. The EFL said they were conscious of the feelings of the survivors and families of the victims.

The FSF said they had deliberately kept a low profile during the safe standing debate until the Hillsborough inquests had reached their conclusion.

SOS conducted a poll last year in which 88% of the 18,000 who responded said they were in favour of the introduction of rail standing. Many members of the group were impressed during a visit to Celtic earlier this month, where the club has successfully installed standing room at their ground.

Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey argues that having the choice to stand could improve the situations at grounds because it would reduce the instances of persistent standing in seated areas which many clubs now turn a blind eye to.

FSF chief executive Kevin Miles told the BBC: “There are clubs who are having to manage persistent standing in seated areas who are hamstrung because one of the methods they could use to deal with it, to offer choice, is against the regulations.

“There are safety officers who would love to say on the ticket ‘would you prefer to sit or stand’, so the latter could go at the back but they can’t.”