Government petition passes 50,000 signatures

April 2018. A petition on the government website calling for the introduction of safe standing in the Premier League and EFL has collected over 50,000 signatures and is now well on the way to the 100k target required for the matter to be considered for a parliamentary debate.

The surge in fans signing up to the petition comes in the wake of Sports Minister Tracey Crouch’s rejection of an application from West Bromwich Albion to run a rail seating pilot at The Hawthorns and her subsequent claims that safe standing was wanted by only a “vocal minority” of fans.

Her rejection of WBA’s proposed trial was followed by an assertion that fans who stand in all-seater stadia should be forced to sit down. She said “There are regulations to deal with persistent standing — I would like to see them enforced”. This met with strong criticism from the Football Safety Officers’ Association. In a statement on their website they said “The pilot would have provided the perfect opportunity to gather much-needed data” and bemoaned the fact that “it seems that as we strive to improve standards of safety already achieved at our grounds, the Government is then choosing to ignore what may prove to be a safer alternative to standing in seated areas”.

Talking about the current all-seater policy, Crouch also claimed that “there is no desire among the top clubs to change this policy”. Yet her own club, Spurs, are building their new stadium with areas designed for safe standing and in the very same week the MD of Manchester United, Richard Arnold, said of rail seating “We would like to implement it at Old Trafford if the legislation allowed it.”

As much as the disbelief at the fact that a proposal for rail seating based wholly on enhanced spectator safety and backed by West Brom’s Safety Advisory Group had been turned down, it was probably the fear that even the current practice of tolerating standing in seated areas might end that prompted over 40,000 fans to add their names to the petition in 48 hours. While the initial shock and anger may now have subsided slightly, the fact that the petition has three more months to run would seem to ensure that the 100,000 signatures needed for the matter to be considered for a parliamentary debate will certainly be reached.

The petition can be reached here