Football's Safe Standing campaign has today been given formal backing by a political party this morning. The Labour Party have announced that changes to the 1989 Football Spectators' Act would form part of official party policy if it was put to a vote in Parliament. The confirmation from Shadow Sports Minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, ensures that the Football Supporters Federation and the Football League now guarantee that their hopes to legalise the concept of Rail Seating in Premier League and Championship grounds have backing from politicians.
Support for Safe Standing was also a part of the 2015 and 2017 Liberal Democrats Election Manifesto, and so although they have been quiet on the recent campaigning, it would seem likely that they would also support any moves to change the law that was set up in the wake of the Taylor Report into the Hillsborough Stadium disaster. Launching their plans at a meeting at Queens Park Rangers' Loftus Road ground, Dr Allin-Khan said that she had been consulting with a number of fans groups and safety authorities, and their view was that the choice of what facilities to offer should lie with the local safety authorities and clubs, rather than Whitehall officials:
"It's time for change. Labour's decision is the result of in-depth consultation with football clubs, fans and safety authorities. It's time to back safe-standing. We want to give the power to fans, clubs and local safety authorities, to allow for a small area inside a stadium to be designated for safe-standing. Clubs, fans and local authorities know their stadium far better than anybody in Whitehall - the decision should rest with them."
The current Government position is for them to resist change in the current laws, with Sports Minister Tracey Crouch dismissing campaigners as a 'vocal minority'. But with the EFL and the FSF formally giving their support to the campaign, along with a number of high profile professional clubs, and a petition attracting over 110,000 signatures, it has been somewhat harder to maintain that stance, and earlier this week, there were signs that the Government were softening their opposition a little. However, Dr Allin-Khan believes that the Government have been slow to move with the times over the issue:
"This is about safety. The current system isn't working, people are standing in unsafe seated areas, and accidents can happen. We would allow the installation of specialised rail seating where appropriate, or standing in current seated areas where it can be made safe to do so. The data and extent of the surveys provided by the EFL and fans' groups clearly shows that fans want safe-standing introduced. Government ministers have dragged their feet. They have not met safety authorities in the past two months, they haven't spoken to any supporters groups, and launched a review overnight without giving it any thought."
The current laws, and the issue of Safe Standing and the introduction of Rail Seats, will be discussed in Parliament on June 25th, as a result of the petition exceeding 100,000 signatures.
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