Legal website article explores safe standing

October 2014. A recent article appearing on a leading legal commentary website has argued that the introduction of rail seating "would not only meet the purposes of the Taylor Report, but also comply with current legislation".

The article, written by Marcus Keppel-Palmer, a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of the West of England and formerly a solicitor and partner with Hill Dickinson, is published on LawInSport, which describes itself as "a leading international sports law digital media business", which provides "expert commentary and analysis on the latest issues and legal developments in the world of sport."

In his detailed analysis of the current situation, Keppel-Palmer notes that in 1990, when Lord Justice Taylor made his recommendation regarding the introduction of all-seater stadia, most football grounds dated from the early 20th century and were in a poor state of repair. He judges that Taylor's "recommendation was not in itself primarily focussed on safety, but rather offered as a solution to the prevailing low level facilities at all football stadia".

Keppel-Palmer goes on to note that Taylor stated that all-seater stadia were in themselves not the only answer to the problems of that era, but that this was the "most appropriate at the time of the Report, given the atmosphere and culture then prevailing in football".

Looking at the present day, he argues that the "social, cultural and architectural conditions applying in 2014 are different to those in the time that Taylor LJ reported. Many clubs in the Premier League and in the Football League inhabit stadia built since 1989 or substantially remodelled since then."

He notes, too, that Taylor's primary concern was not that spectators should sit down (indeed he notes that Taylor expected them to stand at times), but that a spectator should have "his own small piece of territory in which he can feel reasonably secure”, where he would not be “subject to pressure of numbers behind or around him during the match” and where there would be no surging, or "involuntary and uncontrolled crowd movements occasioned by incidents in the game".

"Rail seating is arguably a better response to these issues than current seating as the barrier prevents spectators falling forward over seats," says Keppel-Palmer.

All in all, for anyone with an interest in the legal aspects of the safe standing debate the article is a fascinating read. So make yourself a drink (it's not a short item!), sit down, click here and read away!

If, you concur with Keppel-Palmer's interpretation that the law's intended purpose is to safeguard spectators from surging, crushing and buffeting, i.e. the primary concerns expressed by Taylor in his report, then you may well concur also with his concluding comments that as "there is no definition of “seated accommodation”, it would seem self-evident that rail seating would comply with the undefined term in the Statute and Orders" and that "the reintroduction of some standing areas at stadia in England and Wales by means of the introduction of dedicated rail seating/safe standing would not only meet the purposes of the Taylor Report, but also comply with current legislation".