Sports Minister Tracey Crouch 'declaring war on fans' over safe standing, say FSF

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Celtic's safe standing: how does it work?

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch is "declaring war on fans" by turning a blind eye to safe standing, says the Football Supporters' Federation (FSF).

The UK government says there are no plans to change the all-seater policy at stadiums after recently rejecting West Brom's plans for rail seating.

That is despite claims fans favour some safe standing in grounds - a view echoed by Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

"Tracey Crouch is not offering a solution," said FSF's Peter Daykin.

"Forcing fans to sit down at all-seater stadiums doesn't work, so by turning a blind eye to safe standing, she is basically telling them to solve the issue."

A Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) spokesperson said that claim was "ridiculous".

Crouch's decision to block West Brom's attempt to introduce 3,600 rail seats has been criticised heavily by both supporters and safety experts.

An online petition to force the government to debate the issue has amassed more than 70,000 signatures, with Wenger adding: "If the safety is right, standing has my 100% backing."

But the Premier League has said more evidence is needed before safe standing can be allowed at top-flight stadiums.

And the DCMS said the safety of fans is "the government's priority".

A statement added: "We have no plans to change the all-seater policy but we will continue to monitor the issue of spectator accommodation and the use of safe standing where it is permitted."

West Brom play Swansea at the Hawthorns
West Brom director Mark Miles said: "I have become convinced that rail seating would enhance safety."

Why does seating need to change?

West Brom's proposal was based on persistent standing at The Hawthorns, which is considered a safety issue at many all-seater stadiums and "impossible to manage" according to Daykin.

The Premier League club came up with the plans after visiting Celtic and German team Hoffenheim, where the same system is used and "well-tested across Europe".

Daykin also believes the government's position is "at odds" with that of the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) - the department which looks after safety in stadiums.

Legislation forbidding standing in grounds was introduced following the Taylor Report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster when 96 Liverpool supporters were killed at an FA Cup semi-final.

But it only applies to the top two divisions in English football - the Premier League and the Championship - with League One and League Two clubs able to apply for safe standing, as League One Shrewsbury have done.

"There have been SGSA summits organised to discuss persistent standing and the clear suggestion was that current legislation is not working," Daykin told BBC Sport.

"The government is isolated, no-one believes what they are saying."

'Fans want the choice to stand'

English Football League chief executive Shaun Harvey said he would "robustly" ask the government to change its stance because of "significant popular demand".

After the Premier League conducted research into safe standing, it said the results suggested: "A majority of fans like the idea of standing areas in principle but only 5% want to stand for an entire match."

But Daykin said that told only part of the story.

"The fact the Premier League have gone on record for the first time to say that a percentage of their customers wants to stand is progress," he said.

"Our research suggests that 80-90% of fans wants standing back in football, even though they might not want to stand themselves. People want the choice and most say that standing adds to the atmosphere."

Wenger added: "I think the atmosphere is much better when people stand. I think it is a tradition of English football to have that and overall I have to say it is much better."

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