Over 40 fan organisations from across England and Wales and throughout the football pyramid were represented. The meeting, chaired by MP Clive Efford, heard from over 20 of those present about their own experiences and views on safer standing.
Dr Allin-Khan said that the fact that fans could stand to watch a concert in the same place they had to sit to watch a football match not only indicated the flaw in the current legislation, but also the all too frequent anti-football fan prejudice that still existed. She indicated sympathy with the view that decision-making be devolved to a local level, so that the clubs and local safety bodies who best knew their own crowds could take decisions.
THST’s Martin Cloake emphasised the change in attitudes within the game that had seen Tottenham Hotspur plan in provision for safe standing to the new stadium should legislation change to allow it, and backed the view that local decision-making was the way forward.
Labour is expected to announce policy on the issue imminently, and Dr Allin-Khan referenced the fact that, on the day before this meeting, Sports Minister Tracey Crouch had announced there would be a review of the legislation – a statement that was in stark contrast to her dismissal of calls for change as coming from “a vocal minority”. Dr Allin-Khan felt this change had come about only because Labour was properly consulting on the issue, and because more than 110,000 fans had signed a petition in the wake of Crouch’s previous comments, forcing a parliamentary debate.
THST was particularly disappointed in Crouch’s comments. When she was appointed we wrote to her, as a Spurs fan, congratulating her on her appointment and offering to consult on football issues or give her a platform if she wanted it. We’ve never received any acknowledgement of that invitation, but we hope she has now seen the benefits of genuine consultation with fans. We’ve certainly found our discussions with Dr Allin-Khan’s team to be genuine and constructive.
It’s certainly a remarkable situation to find the two main parties vying to show the greatest support for a position fan organisations have campaigned for over many years, and we’re also encouraged that the Liberal Democrats are in favour of introducing safe standing. Cross party support makes the change we all want more likely to happen.
It now seems likely a Department for Culture, Media and Sport review body will be established to see how to implement change, and decide what that change should be. We await with interest Labour’s policy announcement, and details of how the government review is to be carried out, and who by. Fan groups continue to make clear we expect to be properly represented in any discussion.
Dr Allin-Khan’s survey is still running, and she is urging as many fans as possible to fill it in. We’d like to thank all our fans who have lobbied their MPs on this issue, it does make a difference. Those of you who have received the standard letter from the MPs who remain opposed that states “Ministers are not persuaded by the case put forward to re-introduce standing accommodation in grounds in the top two divisions” may want to follow up now that the Minister has said “we recognise that technology and stadium design has evolved since the all-seater policy was introduced and the time is right to look at the issue”. We know some of you only received negative replies very recently, but we have seen that a week is clearly a long time in politics.
7 June 2018