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Welsh Assembly vote supports safe standing

posted 10 Jul 2014 02:37 by Jon Darch   [ updated 10 Jul 2014 02:40 ]

With support from all parties, the National Assembly for Wales has overwhelmingly passed a resolution in support of safe standing. The ‘Individual Members Debate’ was tabled by Assembly Members Andrew RT Davies, Ann Jones, Bethan Jenkins, and Aled Roberts following a visit by the FSF and the Safe StandingRoadshow to The Senedd in June.

Welsh Assembly passes historic safe standing vote

 The proposal in front of the Assembly was that it:

·  Notes the overwhelming appetite amongst football supporters for the introduction of safe standing facilities;

·  Calls on the Welsh Government to work closely with sport associations and regulatory authorities to promote safe standing at sports stadia in Wales;

·  And calls on the UK Government to consider the introduction of a pilot of safe standing in Wales.

The resounding vote of 26 in favour, 1 against and 20 abstentions was equivalent to a vote of 282 for and 11 against at Westminster.

It was gratifying to see that nearly all of the AMs were well informed about rail seating and understood its fundamental difference to old-fashioned terracing. Only one AM appeared to think that what was being proposed was a return to the days of ‘surging’ and ‘charging’, as he put it. It is to be hoped, therefore, that if Westminster MPs also take the time to inform themselves about rail seating, a similar outcome might be expected in any future Commons debate.

In the meantime, as the relevant legislation is not a devolved matter, Welsh Assembly Members will now deliver an open letter to Sports Minister Helen Grant urging her to introduce a pilot scheme in Wales and to remove legislation that they say “unfairly stigmatises football fans”.

The full 40-minute debate can be viewed here.

First rail seats in the UK installed in Bristol

posted 11 Mar 2014 06:14 by Jon Darch   [ updated 11 Mar 2014 06:16 ]

February 12th 2014. A red letter day for rail seats and safe standing. The first ever block of rail seats in the UK is unveiled at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate Stadium. Small, but perfectly formed, the block will be used for demonstration purposes to show interested parties what rail seats are and how they can be used.

First ever rail seats installed in the UK

Bristol Sport, which is redeveloping Ashton Gate for use by both Bristol City and Bristol Rugby Club, is planning to incorporate two areas of rail seats in the remodelled stadium. Until such time as the rules on standing at football change, these will offer standing accommodation for rugby games only and be used as seats for football.

To explain these plans to key stakeholders, the media and the general public, Bristol Sport has installed 3 rows of rail seats, totalling 33 in all, in one self-contained corner of Ashton Gate (now ‘out of bounds’ for football). The installation was filmed and a timelapse recording of the 6-hour process was viewed over 5,000 times within the first 24 hours of the official unveiling by John Leech MP, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on culture, media and sport.

A further 5-minute video was also made for seating manufacturer Ferco Seating, explaining the technical aspects of the installation process. It also points out that three rows of seats have three different rail heights, i.e. 800, 950 and 1100mm, in order to promote debate about the most appropriate height for the rail integrated into this new form of stadium seating.

Anyone wishing to view the rail seats at Ashton Gate can arrange to do so by contacting rail.seats@gmx.com



Football League clubs say 'Yes' to standing

posted 11 Mar 2014 05:28 by Jon Darch   [ updated 11 Mar 2014 05:33 ]

February 6th 2014. In a landmark development for the safe standing campaign it was announced at the Football League meeting that the League executive had been mandated by the member clubs to “approach the Minister for Sport to request that the 'all-seater' stadia requirement for Championship clubs be reviewed with a view to the re-introduction of standing accommodation”.

Football League clubs say 'Yes' to safe standing

This announcement came as the clubs were told how they had replied to the four questions put to them in the consultation paper on standing, which had been circulated in late 2013. 78% of clubs responding to the key question on approaching the government to seek a review of the law had said ‘Yes’.

The clubs also gave the League executive a mandate to “approach the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to request that rail seating products be licensed in Football League grounds.” The clubs also replied ‘Yes’ to two further questions, namely: ‘Should clubs be permitted to accommodate supporters in rail seating in the Championship?’ and ‘Should clubs be permitted to revert from seating to standing accommodation in League One and League Two following relegation from the Championship?

This whole process at the Football League had been initiated by Bob Symns, Chief Executive of Peterborough United, who came with us to Hanover to see their rail seats in the summer of 2012 and put a motion in support of safe standing to a meeting of Championship clubs in February 2013 and to the full League AGM in May 2013.

Bob Symns (second from left) among the rail seats at the ground of Hannover 96

Welcoming the latest news, Bob said: “Following all the hard work and commitment that has been undertaken by the FSF, Safe Standing Roadshow and teams from the Football League and Premier League in regard to rail seating, I think the result of the safe standing consultation will prove to be a significant, sensible and safe step in the right direction on the road to bringing this extremely credible option to the public and our stadia.”

The Football League executives are now expected to begin discussions with DCMS and the SGSA in line with the mandates given to them by their member clubs.

League seeks clubs' views on safe standing

posted 19 Jan 2014 12:33 by Jon Darch   [ updated 23 Jan 2014 03:32 ]

December 2013. The safe standing campaign took a major step forward as the Football League sent out a safe standing consultation document to all 72 clubs, seeking their responses to four key questions.

Football League asks clubs 4 safe standing questions

The document was the results of many months of researching the safe standing issue by the Football League executive team in response to the vote by 55 of the 72 clubs at their AGM in May that charged the executive with exploring what steps would be necessary to implement safe standing trials.

Having explored this thoroughly, including by making a fact-finding visit to Germany, the executive team were now asking the clubs four questions:

- Should the Football League approach the minister for sport to request that the 'all-seater' stadia requirement for Championship clubs be reviewed with a view to the re-introduction of standing accommodation?

- Should the Football League approach the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to request that rail seating products be licensed in Football League grounds?

- Should clubs be permitted to accommodate supporters in rail seating in the Championship?

- Should clubs be permitted to revert from seating to standing accommodation in League One and League Two following relegation from the Championship?

Clubs have been asked to respond by Friday 24th January.

The sort of rail seating on which the League is seeking clubs' views.

Among the clubs already to have responded positively are: Portsmouth, Derby County, Bristol CityPeterborough United, Burnley, Exeter City and Yeovil Town.

Others have indicated confidentially that they are answering 'Yes' to all four questions, but have not yet made this public. Still others are consulting their fans.

Act now! Contact your club today!
Supporters of Football League clubs that have not yet indicated how they intend to respond are being urged by the Football Supporters Federation to contact their club urgently via their Supporter Liaison Officer to urge them to reply 'Yes' on all four counts. A list of SLOs' e-mail addresses can be found here.

BBC Radio One Newsbeat join us in Wolfsburg

posted 19 Jan 2014 11:57 by Jon Darch   [ updated 19 Jan 2014 11:59 ]

December 2013. Even before obtaining responses from groups from all clubs, BBC Radio One's Newsbeat programme reported that supporters' groups from more than half of all Premier League clubs say they would like the option to stand at football.

BBC Radio One Newsbeat join us at VfL Wolfsburg

The report was backed up by photos and video produced by reporter Ben Mundy when we arranged for him to meet us at VfL Wolfsburg a few weeks earlier. With SLO Holger Ballwanz, press officer André Hahn and stadium manager Thomas Franke playing great hosts, Ben was shown around the stadium and the rail seating area behind the goal for the home fans.

In that area, bathed in bright sunshine, he filmed a piece with Thomas that explains very nicely in little more than a minute just how safe standing at rail seats works and why Thomas would recommend it for grounds in the UK.

Click image to go to video

Many thanks once again to Holger, André and Thomas for all their help on the day!


Liverpool fan sites cover safe standing debate

posted 19 Jan 2014 09:27 by Jon Darch   [ updated 19 Jan 2014 09:39 ]

Recent months have seen safe standing featured on Liverpool fan websites and in items produced by prominent Liverpool fans on TV and in the mainstream press. In November 2013, for instance, major fans' website 'This is Anfield' began a series of featured articles on the safe standing debate.

Liverpool fan sites cover safe standing debate

After regular contributor John Ritchie had set the ball rolling with a piece entitled 'Liverpool FC: The case for safe standing', our own Jon Darch contributed an article looking at the social background to the standing ban and suggesting that to support a ban based on the premise that fans who like to stand are trouble waiting to happen was an insult to the 96. Jon also contributed a set of safe standing FAQs for the site.

More recently, 'This is Anfield' has added a further piece by Peter Caton, author of 'Stand Up, Sit Down', arguing that to assert that standing is unsafe harms the fight for justice, a view with which Sheila Coleman of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign appears to agree:

Sheila Coleman tweet

It is very encouraging and interesting to see such Liverpool websites and individuals carry / link to such articles, which were preceded in the late summer by a safe standing video feature for BT Sport produced by Times football editor and long-standing Liverpool fan Tony Evans and followed in January 2014 by an article by Evan's Times colleague and fellow Reds fans Tony Barrett in The Times and on Liverpool fan site The Anfield Wrap, in which he asserted that safe standing deserves calm consideration.

Never let it be said, therefore, that all in Liverpool are against standing. Clearly that is not the case.

Manchester United will look at safe standing

posted 19 Jan 2014 08:26 by Jon Darch   [ updated 21 Jan 2014 09:21 ]

The safe standing campaign received a boost in early October 2013, when new Manchester United CEO Ed Woodward told fanzine 'United We Stand' that the club was interested in safe standing.

Man Utd CEO says club will look at safe standing

"Standing is something we'll look at," Woodward told fanzine editor Andy Mitten. "I can definitely see the appeal of the German model."

Man Utd group at rail seats in Leverkusen
Mitten and United fans had a chance to try out that 'German model' for themselves just a couple of weeks later when the club played at Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League. Supporter Liaison Officer Franky Linde showed a group of supporters' representatives and media around the away section of the ground before the match. Fitted with red rail seats it got the thumbs up from all present. Later it helped the United fans generate a great, non-stop atmosphere as the team beat Bayer Leverkusen 5-0 (sorry Franky!).

Atmosphere, indeed, was one of the benefits that Woodward had recognised standing could enhance:
"You can still have an amazing atmosphere at Old Trafford... Standing can make a difference though."

Let's hope it's not long before United fans can make that difference standing behind rail seats at Old Trafford!

Picture: Front row from left to right: Ian Stirling (chairman, IMUSA), Duncan Drasdo (chief exec., MUST), Andy Mitten (editor, UWS), Franky Linde (SLO, Bayer Leverkusen)

Bristol City to pioneer safe standing rail seats

posted 28 Jun 2013 10:03 by Jon Darch   [ updated 28 Jun 2013 16:18 ]

Bristol, June 2013. Bristol City look set to become the first club in the UK to incorporate safe standing rail seat areas into their ground. That's what will happen if a proposed £40m development of Ashton Gate goes ahead. And the new rail seat areas could be open and in use by August 2015.

Bristol City to pioneer safe standing rail seats

This is where I have to declare an interest: Bristol City is the club I've supported all my life, so I'm delighted to see them leading the way as the first club in the UK to propose a stadium development that incorporates rail seats.

The only sad thing about the plans is that unless the rules change between now and August 2015 only supporters of the club's new groundshare partners, Bristol Rugby, will be allowed to stand at the rail seats. For football games the stadium will still have to offer only "seated accommodation", so the rail seats will be unlocked to enable them to be used as seats.

Bristol Sport, the parent company that owns the football and rugby clubs, have provided for 3,152 rail seats in a refurbished Dolman Stand (opposite the dug-outs) and a new end stand (pictured above) that will replace the Wedlock Stand (in part of which away fans are currently housed). Once completed, Ashton Gate will hold 26,500 in all-seater mode and up to 29,000 with standing in rail seat areas.

As indicated above, however, only Bristol Rugby Club will be able to offer the rail seats in standing mode, as current legislation prohibits clubs with all-seater grounds from converting any part back into a standing area, even if, like Bristol City, they have dropped down below the Championship and would otherwise be allowed to offer standing.

Inconsistent and illogical legislation
The inconsistent, illogical nature of current legislation is perfectly highlighted here – the authorities are perfectly happy to allow standing in rail seated areas, so long as the ball is oval, not round! However, this shouldn’t detract from the pioneering proposals put forward by Bristol City, who will be lobbying for the redeveloped Ashton Gate (pictured right looking from the Atyeo Stand) to be used as a pilot site for a safe standing trial. These plans come hot on the heels of the vote passed by 55 out of the 72 Football League clubs recently at their AGM, where they approved a motion to “explore the steps necessary” to run safe standing trials.

Rail seat areas to open August 2015
The redevelopment plans for Ashton Gate run alongside an exisiting proposal to build a new ground at nearby Ashton Vale, the design of which also includes provision for rail seats. An inquiry into those plans opens in October with the club aiming to decide on which project to proceed with by the end of the year. If they decide to redevelop Ashton Gate, work is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2014 and the new home end and refurbished Dolman Stand (left in the picture above) are set to open in August 2015.

Football League passes safe standing vote

posted 11 Jun 2013 05:06 by Jon Darch   [ updated 11 Jun 2013 05:18 ]

Portugal. June 7th 2013. The day a vast majority of the 72 Football League clubs passed a vote on safe standing trials and called on their board to explore what steps were necessary to put such trials in place.

League AGM passes safe standing vote

As Robin Scott-Elliot reported in The Independent: "The Football League board is to explore what steps need to be taken in order to hold trials of safe-standing areas within grounds. Pressure is growing on the League after a majority of its member clubs backed a motion in support of the issue at their annual general meeting in Portugal."

It is understood that over three-quarters of the League clubs voted in support of the motion. The Independent goes on to say: "There is an expectation the League will "start lobbying in the right places", according to one chief executive, who added that Greg Clarke, the League's chairman, had told him "we will make enquiries". "It's got the will of the people," said the chief executive."

This vote comes hard on the heels of 21 out 22 Championship clubs supporting a motion put forward by Bob Symns of Peterborough United in February, proposing that: "The Football League would encourage and support the instigation of a rail seat/safe standing trial period at any League club wishing to run such a trial. This permission would only apply during a new build or stadium redevelopment.". Following this second vote among the full 72 clubs, The Independent says that: "The League promised to report to members on what course is open."

Safe standing video
View again our video that explains all you ever need to know about safe standing at rail seats in under 4 minutes:

Borussia Dortmund host safe standing group

posted 24 May 2013 02:54 by Jon Darch   [ updated 29 May 2013 18:24 ]

May 2013. On the final day of the Bundesliga season, just seven days before their Champions League Final, fans and staff of Borussia Dortmund took time out to show a group from the UK around their stadium, explain the German club ownership model and give us the opportunity to watch a game from the rail seat area at the back of the famous Yellow Wall. One of the group in Dortmund that day was Norwich City fan David Wiltshire of the 'Barclay End Projekt'. Here's his report:

Barclay End Projekt visits Dortmund

Over the weekend the Barclay End Projekt were present in Dortmund as part of a group of supporters from England to view the facilities on offer at the Westfalenstadion and to speak to fan leaders and club employees about the relationship between the club and its supporters.

The group, organised by The Safe Standing Roadshow and consisting of supporters, fan group leaders and club officials, was representative of clubs in all four of England’s professional leagues as well as the Football Supporters Federation and Supporters Direct. We were also very privileged to be able to watch Dortmund’s last league match of the season against Hoffenheim from the rail seating of the famous Yellow Wall.

Dortmund fans play host
Amongst the Dortmund supporters we met was Marc Quambusch, a TV producer who is a leading voice in the campaign to keep ticket prices affordable. Under the slogan ‘Kein Zwanni – Fußball muss bezahlbar sein’ (No Twenty Euros – Football must be affordable) the campaign aims to keep ticket prices for safe standing areas in all of Germany’s stadiums under €20 in order for the stadiums to remain socially inclusive. The campaign has already had some success, with Borussia Dortmund announcing that they will no longer charge visiting fans a premium for big matches in the hope that other clubs will follow their lead. Marc is also very passionate about clubs being controlled by the supporters rather than individuals and why it’s imperative that the fans have a strong voice and are included in all decisions which affect them. For many years he has worked and campaigned with fellow supporters to ensure that this is the case at Dortmund. He was also extremely interested to hear about the Projekt we have started at Norwich.

Together with Marc, our other main host was Janni, who in 2001 formed the Ultras group The Unity on Dortmund’s Yellow Wall and who are responsible for the incredible choreographies which the Dortmund fans put on. He was able to explain the dynamics of the group and the structure which they work within, along with how it’s possible for them to organise the main vocal and expressive support. The group has 348 active members, a similar number of secondary members who are slightly less involved, and then 5000 supporters who join in with the vocal and colourful support on match days. They maintain good relations with the club and other supporters groups at Dortmund, enabling them to put all their time and effort into creating a passionate, colourful and expressive support.

Like Marc, Janni is also passionate about fans having a voice in all dialogue and decisions surrounding the game and is a leader in preserving supporters freedom to support their team. He took time to explain to us why the safe standing areas in Germany’s stadiums, along with their affordable ticket prices, are so fundamental in how active supporters can operate and group together in these areas to produce the strongest and most passionate support possible for the benefit of their team. When the German FA last year proposed new stadium regulations which would suppress some of the freedoms which fans enjoy, Janni was the spokesman for a series of protests at grounds across the country to ensure the fans views were heard. The German FA’s meeting was set for 12/12/2012, so to demonstrate their disapproval to the proposed new regulations, German stadiums fell silent for 12 minutes and 12 seconds at the beginning of every match in the weeks leading to the meeting to emphasise that ‘football without fans is nothing’.

Dortmund Fan Projekt
On the Saturday morning and in the hours prior to the match, we were able to meet with Rolf-Arnd Marewski who, along with a fellow supporter in 1987, set up the Dortmund Fan Projekt. Their role then was to be a link between the club, the authorities and the hooligan element of Dortmund’s support at the time, with the aim of reducing the amount of violence through an understanding of why these fans were involved in such activities, and to produce a more positive environment at Dortmund matches. The Fan Projekt made progress and grew through a combination of gaining trust within the fanbase and a constructive relationship with the club. From their office in the city centre, they are now involved in many activities with the younger elements of the Dortmund support, including the creation of the Learning Centre at Dortmund which was inspired by similar initiatives at English clubs. Rolf describes much of his work within the Projekt as being like social work with younger supporters, though they also provide logistical support to the Ultras so they can carry out their activities successfully, as well as running trips for Under 18’s to away matches, which typically cost €15 for travel and ticket.

Our last stop before the stadium was at the Dortmund club offices, where we met with Jens Volke, one of six full time Supporter Liaison Officers employed by the club. Jens was able to explain some of his work to us and why it was so important that the club maintains a positive and constructive relationship with the supporters. Before becoming an SLO for the club, he was for many years a leading fan activist and co-founded the online fanzine Schwatzgelb. This has enabled him to remain a trusted and respected figure amongst fans whilst being employed by the club to be a link between them and to involve them in all decisions which affect supporters. He also took time to detail Dortmund’s complicated ownership model and how control of the club is able to remain in the hands of the fans.

And then there was the stadium. The Westfalenstadion is Germany’s largest stadium, with a capacity of 80,552, consisting of seated and safe standing accommodation for both home and away supporters. At the South end of the stadium is the magnificent Südtribüne, known as the Yellow Wall. With a capacity of 24,454, it’s Europe’s largest standing area. All fans enter through the electronic turnstiles before heading to their designated block of the stand, where their ticket is again checked by a steward to ensure even distribution of supporters across the Südtribüne. The bottom sections of the stand are more open standing areas, whilst the higher areas of the stand are made up of rail seating, the type of standing accommodation which we believe should be used in English stadiums.

Rail seats on the Yellow Wall
As with rail seats throughout Germany, there is a rail every two rows, eliminating the threat of crowd surges, and Jens was able to confirm that no supporter had ever suffered an injury here since the rail seats were installed in 1999. The ratio between seats and fans is approx 1:1.7, meaning that even when the Yellow Wall is full, there’s no threat of overcrowding. This type of accommodation is not only safe, but also welcoming and hospitable for all supporters. By our estimates, around 30% of supporters in our area were women, and many children were also present with their parents. A supporter in front of us explained that he’d been standing behind the goal in this area since he was 6.

Positivity and enthusiasm
Sadly, despite an impressive Yellow Wall being in constant voice throughout the match, we weren’t able to bring the team luck, with Dortmund suffering a surprise 2-1 defeat. However, we returned to England with a huge amount of positivity and enthusiasm to push forward our respective supporter campaigns, and with a far greater understanding of how the German football model works to encompass supporters into all aspects of the game.

Finally, a huge amount of gratitude must be expressed to Jon Darch of The Safe Standing Roadshow for organising the trip. We must also acknowledge all the above mentioned people at Dortmund who, despite being ridiculously busy prior to the Champions League Final, gave us a huge amount of their time and expressed enormous generosity to make our visit the success it was.

This report first appeared on the Barclay End Projekt website.

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