Safe Standing at Football Grounds - The truth behind the myth

The Misconception

As millions of fans nationwide have visited their respected clubs over the last season of football, many more over the next few years will visit their "mecca". The place where dreams come true, nightmares persist and emotion becomes your passion. If you are an avid football fan, match day is the most amazing feeling. From waking up and getting ready, to getting on the train, bus or car with your fellow supporters and getting to the ground. Even if you are somewhat of a loner, regular fans at the game will share your passion, excitement, and belief system. This will bring you closer than most family members - they will be your football family. They will share each one of your emotions, from basking in the same glory as you to wallowing in self pity because that star striker that you have been waiting to come good actually misses a sitter in injury time to cost your team valuable points.

The general consensus from the normal match goer is that standing up at grounds is illegal, ever since the Hillsborough incident. This couldn't be further from the truth! To explain a little more in detail, the stewards can still eject you if you stand up but that is a relationship between yourself and the club when you enter the ground, we will go into more detail further on about the legalities.

The Truth

Way back in 1989, an act was passed named "The Football Spectators Act". Section 11 of this act states the following

‘The Secretary of State may, by order, direct the licensing authority to include in any licence to admit spectators to any specified premises a condition imposing requirements as respects the seating of spectators at designated football matches at the premises; and it shall be the duty of the authority to comply with the direction.’
Now, the most important things that we need to know are the following:
- Only the top 2 Divisions need to have all seater stadiums(It doesn't say the spectators must sit)
- Rugby Union and Rugby League across England and Wales have spectators that are allowed to stand(You heard that right, Rugby is exempt)
- The Bundesliga has safe standing, it works and they have a higher average match day attendance than the English Premier League

Having trawled through the web, I found a nice little article, regarding the legalities of standing in your seat at match day. It was a letter to the Football Supporters' Federation in 2008 regarding safe standing. The quote is from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
‘At no point has it been argued that the individual spectator commits a criminal offence by standing in a seated area’ (Source: Letter to Football Supporters’ Federation, 2008)
If it is not illegal, what is going on?

From my investigation and research into safe standing, there is a massive grey area as to what is acceptable and what isn't acceptable. For instance, the Football League’s model set of ground regulations states:

‘Nobody may stand in any seating area whilst play is in progress. Persistent standing in seated areas whilst play is in progress is strictly forbidden and may result in ejection from the ground’.
Are they trying to keep everybody safe? As a match goer and somewhat away day traveler, travelling away with your team allows you to stand with your hearts content. When the half time whistle blows that's the 15 minutes you have to sit down, rest your legs and get ready for another scintillating 45 minutes. Is it any wonder that the away fans can produce the same, if not more, noise than the home fans? I think this is down to not being able to enforce sitting down for away fans. The stewards (whom our clubs pay a massive amount for) can barely get the disgusting chants under control, but there is a fine line. The last thing I want is someone reporting me via text message (everyone has seen those adverts, right?) for saying s**t, because it is a family environment.

Football has become ridiculous - not long ago at Wembley, swearing was a reportable and an eject-able offence. I can only assume these messages are intended for the 'fans' taking selfies or playing Candy Crush with their kids, wives, and cousins in tow. This is called the "flavour of the month" fan - because it is the climax of the football season they must go to the final games to witness glory. Thankfully they all support Chelsea or City now.

In Conclusion

Something has to be done about safe standing with the technology we have today. The evidence that Rugby Union & League alongside the German football league can manage safe standing and we cannot shows the gulf in how football is seen today. Alcohol is banned from the terraces, smoking is banned from the terraces, even E-cigs are banned from the terraces. Live and let live - give your team the chance to have its supporters fully behind them and let us prove safe standing is here to stay. Give the spectators a choice - sit or stand. What's your choice?

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