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.
Safe standing video
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
View again our video that explains all you ever need to know about safe standing at rail seats in under 4 minutes:
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
May 2013. After Championship clubs voted overwhelmingly in favour of trials of safe standing, the Football League is coming under growing pressure to lobby government for trials to be allowed.Championship clubs put pressure on League
In a front-page exclusive The Independent has revealed that 21 out of 22 Championship clubs present at a Football League meeting in February 2013 voted in favour of the League supporting trials of safe standing.
The Independent went on: "Some clubs believed the League would then begin lobbying the Government over a change in legislation to allow standing in the second tier ... but the issue was instead dropped as the League remained to be convinced it was a battle worth fighting, despite what one chief executive labelled as an "overwhelming mandate from the Championship".In a letter sent to Championship clubs in April the League's chief operating officer, Andy Williamson, wrote "it was agreed that the League should not advocate rail seating/safe standing. The matter will not be progressed by the League but if a club wishes to pursue this initiative then that is a matter for them".
It is a response described as a "complete cop-out" by a Championship chief executive who was at the meeting.
Despite this temporary knock-back, the 21-1 vote is clearly a major step forward for the campaign and it is to be hoped that the Football League board will adopt a more democratic approach if the motion is debated and passed at a meeting of all 72 League clubs this summer.
To read the full story click the image above right or this link here
A supplemental piece run alongside the main story can be read here: Why clubs are keen to take a stand
May 2013. Just weeks after the Pompey Trust took over Portsmouth FC, the club is already better reflecting the wishes of its fans by backing the Football Supporters' Federation's safe standing campaign.Supporter-owned Pompey back safe standing
Club CEO Mark Catlin said: "The Safe Standing Roadshow visited Fratton Park during 2011 and the concept was favourably received by all Portsmouth supporters who attended it
Catlin continued: "Portsmouth Football Club is, subject to any future changes in the current legislation and football regulations, delighted to add its name to the Football Supporters’ Federation call for clubs to investigate the option of installing safe standing sections in their stadium
The addition of Pompey to the list of supportive clubs brings to 24 the total number publicly backing the call for safe standing trials.
Thanks to Ken, all others at the Trust and to Mark for making this very welcome announcement.
Consistency. It's what most football teams strive for and few achieve. Well, in respect of his views on safe standing West Ham co-chairman David Gold is nothing if not consistent. Consistent in his support. As evidenced by a series of statements over the last 2 years.Many supportive words from chairman Gold
December 2011 - Twitter"I am in favour of small areas of controlled safe standing. DG"
January 2012 - Twitter"I am in favour of safe standing the key is in the title 'safe'. DG"
November 2012 - TV (SportsTonightLive - see video here
Gold: "I've recently seen a German model of safe standing. It actually is a seat that you leave up and you can stand there and then for other functions they can actually drop the seat down very quickly with a mechanism. So it can be done and I think that we should at least take a look at it
, not close our eyes to the fact ..."
TV host: "Would you have that at West Ham?"
Gold: "If I got the Olympic Stadium, I'd certainly consider it then
December 2012 - Twitter
“@Jamie_Seagrave: @DavidGoldWHU David, Is there anyway to have 'safe standing' at the olympic stadium? I hope so. DG
January 2013 - Twitter"We already have unsafe standing which also stops fans that want to sit from doing so. I'm in favor of safe standing. DG"
March 2013 - Twitter"I support safe standing I have done so for many years."
March 2013 - Twitter
"@DavidGoldWHU have you looked at safe standing? Yes, I support it. DG
March 2013 - Twitter"I would hope in the future to increase the capacity with safe standing."
April 2013 - Twitter"I believe that safe standing is a viable alternative to the current unsafe and anti-social standing."
May 2013 in e-Magazine Blowing Bubbles
“Safe standing in football
stadiums will happen. I promise you it will happen.”
“I’d be stunned if we don’t have some sort of safe-standing
“I think, in five years, we will see safe standing at football stadiums
because, let’s face it, it’s not very expensive to install and it’s safe,
very safe. In fact, it’s twice or three times safer than what we have at the
So great support from the co-chairman. Hopefully formal support from the club will soon follow.
March 2013. Leeds United have become the 23rd club in English league football to formally back the Football Supporters’ Federation's Safe Standing Campaign, announcing that they would be happy to back changes to regulations to allow safes standing rail seats.Marching on together - Leeds Utd join campaign
Club Chief Executive Shaun Harvey said: “Leeds United would be happy to support the changes required to Football League regulations to allow safe standing rail seats, in the event that Peterborough United are successful in their lobbying of Government to achieve a change in current legislation.
With Leeds United becoming the 23rd club to offer their support it means that a quarter of the clubs in the Premier League and Football League have now formally backed the Safe Standing Campaign. The Scottish Premier League also supports the campaign.
Furthermore, more than half of the Football League now either formally support the campaign or already have standing at their ground.
Leeds United Supporters’ Trust (LUST) welcomed the move and said that they hoped the club would consider the possibility of rail seating in the Kop, should legislation allow it.
Chair Gary Cooper said: “This is something that LUST has long campaigned for, we hope the football authorities and the Government look again at safe standing. We fully support the rail seating system currently being demonstrated across the country.
“It’s clear from the feedback we’ve had from our 9,000+ membership that supporters want to be able to stand and sing while supporting their clubs, no more so than at Elland Road. We urge the club to look again at the possibility of rail seating in the Kop.
Thanks to Gary and Shaun for agreeing this statement of support.
March 2013. Following a visit by the roadshow to Oakwell last month and discussions between the Supporters' Trust and the club, Barnsley have become the 22nd club in England and Wales to back the safe standing campaign.Barnsley support safe standing
In a statement given to the Supporters' Trust the Tykes said: “Barnsley Football Club work tirelessly to make Oakwell Stadium a ‘supporter friendly stadium’. We recognise that some of our supporters would like to stand at our games in a safe and controlled environment.
“Having such areas would alleviate the main problem faced by our stewards on matchdays, where large numbers of supporters stand up to the detriment of those wanting to remain seating.
“We therefore happily lend our support to the Football Supporters’ Federation in calling for trials of all types’ of safe standing areas and look forward to both the Government and the football authorities recognising and implementing such trials.
Thanks to Alan Bloore at the Trust and all at the club for giving the campaign this support.
February 2013. Support for safe standing has been official Liberal Democrat policy since 2008. Previously championed in particular by Don Foster, the baton has now been picked up by John Leech, a Manchester City season ticket holder of some 29 years.
LibDem's John Leech reiterates support for safe standing
I met John in Westminster in February and found that he fully 'gets it'
and is right behind the campaign. This was also borne out by an article
that he wrote that same month for the Manchester Evening News, reproduced on his website
, as shown below.
In the article he said: "I genuinely believe that safe standing would be better than the current arrangement when people stand up in seated area for most of the game. Surely, safe standing is an idea whose time has come
Hopefully more and more politicians will come to think this way!
February 2013. Shrewsbury Town have become the 21st club to give their official support to the Safe Standing Campaign. The club’s decision came after discussions with the Safe Standing Roadshow and lobbying from supporters.Shrewsbury Town back safe standing trials
The Shrews said: “As a club that prides itself on keeping fully abreast of the latest developments in the game, Shrewsbury Town FC have been closely monitoring the ongoing debate on safe standing.
“While we moved into a new stadium in 2007 that provides comfortable, all-seater accommodation to supporters in four individual stands, we appreciate that some of our fans do prefer to watch football standing up
The League One side have ambitions of playing in the Championship in the “not too distant future” and, if permitted, would consider developing some of the four corners of the New Meadow into safe standing areas.
“Should trials of safe standing areas using rail seats be permitted and prove successful, that may allow us to consider building such areas in one or two corners at some point in the future,” said the club's statement.
“In order that we might have this freedom to consider that option one day, we therefore support the Football Supporters' Federation in its call on Government to allow a limited number of small-scale safe standing trials.
Shrews fan Justin Gill was instrumental in persuading the club to back safe standing and said he was delighted by the news, “It’s great to see that the club is backing the safe standing campaign and modern rail seat technology is a far cry from the terraces of the 1980s.
Shrewsbury Town are the 21st club to back the Safe Standing Campaign following in the footsteps of Aldershot Town
, Aston Villa
, Brentford, Bristol City
, Cardiff City
, Crystal Palace
, Derby County
, Doncaster Rovers
, Exeter City
, Hull City
, Oldham Athletic
, Peterborough United
, Plymouth Argyle
, Swansea City
, Swindon Town
, AFC Wimbledon
and Wolverhampton Wanderers
. The Scottish Premier League
also supports the introduction of safe standing areas.