The Sweeper: Safe Standing?

safe-standing

Big Story

As we mentioned briefly yesterday, safe standing at football games in Britain has become an election issue. The Liberal Democrats, quiet  in their manifesto on another hot button football issue, supporter ownership, have brought up the prospect of ending the restrictions on standing at stadiums for teams in the top two divisions, the Premier League and Championship.

Ben Foster, the Lib Dems spokesman on Culture, Media and Sport said:

The Liberal Democrats are committed to exploring options for introducing safe standing at football grounds in consultation with fans, clubs and safety experts and have passed a motion at our party conference to this effect. The evidence from countries like Germany shows that safe standing can operate effectively and safely to give fans more choice about how they enjoy the game.

The debate on standing has gotten a little stale in recent years: on the one side, supporters of safe standing point to Germany’s fine example on how it can be done. They point out it’s incongruous that supporters are allowed to stand at lower levels of the game in England.  They point out that the oft-cited example of Hillsborough ignores many of the actual facts behind the cause of that tragedy that meant it was not standing per se that was to blame.

On the other side, opponents of removing the restriction point to Hillsborough, and to cost. Of course, when safe standing exists in many leagues around the world but it’s claimed the world’s richest, the Premier League, can’t afford it, the argument doesn’t hold a lot of water. MLS stadiums are even now cited in England as examples of how standing can be safely done.

For me, the definitive word on all this came with the Football Supporters’ Federation Safe Standing Report (PDF), a masterful document that shows a supporters’ organisation has a better grip on the facts of the matter than the government, whose arguments against are far less detailed. You should read it before dismissing out of hand the prospect of safe standing. It’s time for a serious debate and it’s good the Lib Dems have raised the issue.

Quick Hits

  • The Run of Play hits it out of the park on Mourinho and Guardiola: “If there are two smart ways to deal with the media—be boring and say all the right things, or else stir up controversy for some deliberate purpose—Mourinho loves balancing on the precipice of Crazy Option #3, letting them know what you really think.”
  • Britain might be climbing out of recession, but English football isn’t, Jim White says in the Telegraph: “All this week, Gordon Brown has been telling anyone who will listen that Britain is coming out of recession. Well, football isn’t. If anything, it seems to be getting worse. Everywhere you look the consequences of the sort of financial behaviour that got the wider economy into such a mess are being visited on our leading clubs. “
  • Simon Barnes has an intriguing piece on the meaning of beauty in football: “But troubles come when we start believing it, start believing that the teams and individuals we like, who please our aesthetic sensibilities more, really are morally superior to the others. And that is why sport is so peculiarly prone to errors and misunderstandings and rows and scandals and shocks: because my good guys are your villains, and our brave boys are somebody else’s bastards. Sport is not just about taking sides, it’s about believing that our side is right, and therefore that the other side is wrong. That’s where the trouble starts.”

The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.

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