Just days before MPs gather at Westminster Hall to debate the matter of licensed standing areas at stadiums, EFL Chief Executive Shaun Harvey has outlined how he feels legislation should be changed to ensure that all EFL Clubs are able to give supporters the matchday experience they want, whether that be sitting or standing in their team’s stadium.
With the ministerial debate set for Monday 25 June, the EFL has released a video entitled ‘Stand up for Choice’ to highlight the benefit of licensed standing areas, especially in light of a recent EFL survey of fans on the matter.
Club representatives from Shrewsbury Town, Exeter City and Maidstone United explain what being able to operate a licensed standing area has meant for their individual Clubs.
Given the fact that the Government turned down in April the request of then Premier League West Bromwich Albion of a safe standing area at the Hawthorns, it will be interesting to see how Monday’s debate pans out.
The EFL is urging supporters of ‘Stand up for Choice’ to share the video ahead of the upcoming debate, so that those MPs involved in the debate can be as informed and aware of the benefits as is possible.
The issue has been a hot topic over recent months, with a recent ‘Stand up for Choice’ survey, showing that 94% of football fans believe they should have the option to choose the type of matchday experience they want.
The full results of the EFL survey are available to download for any that wishes to read it.
Current legislation restricts the freedom of EFL Clubs to offer this choice to supporters, with Championship Clubs subject to all-seater requirements that were introduced over 25 years ago.
However, amid a changing political climate with MPs set to debate the issue next week, EFL Chief Executive Shaun Harvey has outlined how he believes the matter should be resolved, with supporters being given the choice they desire in a manner that is safe and fully-licensed.
“This is not a safety issue. Standing is safe and we currently have 22 EFL Clubs offering full-licensed standing accommodation to supporters across all three divisions.
“The matter being debated here is whether all Clubs, regardless of the division they play in, should have the ability to offer fans the choice they want in terms of whether to sit or stand while they watch their football team play.
“While we understand the sensitivity around the issue, the debate is simple and we believe the evidence is clear in how making changes in approach to legislation could have a major impact, not only on the enjoyment of the many millions of supporters who already regularly attend EFL Clubs, but also in attracting new supporters to the game, with evidence suggesting standing is popular amongst younger fans.
“This is a local issue, and we believe the legislation should be amended to provide individual Clubs, and their local Safety Authority Groups to make the decision as to whether standing can be reintroduced to any given stadium and in what form. In our view, it is illogical and outdated to continue with the ‘one-size fits all’ approach that has been in operation for the past 30 years.
“We are pleased that the Government has recently taken steps to review this, and we will continue to work with all the relevant stakeholders, and provide insight and guidance as appropriate, in order to see legislation amended in a way that benefits all parties for the good of the game.”
Swansea City Football Club and the Swansea City Supporters’ Trust have previously shown support for at least looking into the provision of a licensed standing area at the Liberty Stadium, and with the Swans now in control of the stadium – rather than Swansea City Council – it would make matters more straightforward.
Huw Jenkins has previously said:
We would be happy to work with the relevant bodies to look at whether this is something that could be implemented by Swansea City. It would require consultation through our fans (through the Supporters’ Trust) but we are happy to support the overall approach and are happy to work to see if this is something that could be trialled at our stadium.”
Furthermore, the Welsh Assembly backs the idea of safe standing and even passed a motion calling for a trial of safe standing in Wales in 2014, however it must be remembered that stadium safety rules are not currently a devolved issue.
It will be interesting to hear the outcome of the debate at Westminster on Monday, but it is equally as interesting to read the different views that Swansea City fans have on the topic of safe standing.