Fans behind standing at matches

Safe standing stadia has existed in German football for nearly two decades

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The FSF has for many years campaigned for safe standing and now the Football League is consulting clubs over the issue, which is likely to require Government approval.

Politicians will be mindful of the sensitivity of the subject, nearly 25 years on from the Hillsborough disaster, when 96 Liverpool fans were killed.

Yet with many supporters standing even in all-seater stadia, the FSF is adamant the current situation cannot continue.

"Eventually common sense must prevail," said FSF co-chairman Malcolm Clarke.

"How long it will take, I wouldn't like to estimate, but certainly the debate is gathering momentum now within the football industry.

"It's not in anybody's interests that the current situation, where you have tens of thousands of people standing in seated areas every week, continues.

"That helps nobody. Those areas are not ideally designed for standing and you have the problem of those people who can't stand, or don't want to stand, having their view blocked by people who are.

"The common sense solution is to have a proper safe-standing area for those who wish to stand and seated areas for those who wish to sit."

The majority of the Football League's 72 clubs are in favour of safe standing, with the German model pointed to as a workable example.

German stadia use 'rail seats', which can be flipped up and locked in place to provide space to stand behind a waist-high rail that runs along the back of the row in front. Each 'seat' is linked to a ticket number and can be used in a sitting position to meet UEFA rules for European games.

At present, it is not clear if the 'rail seats' would meet regulations or not; virtually all seats in every ground in the country tip up unless someone is sitting on it.

The FSF believes clubs' attitude to standing has shifted.

Clarke added: "We welcome the Football League taking this initiative.

"Previously, it was normally a debate between us and politicians.

"The big change that's occurred in the last two or three years is that increasing numbers of football clubs are now seeing the common sense of this. We're very pleased about that."

If implemented, it is possible ticket prices for supporters could be reduced.

Clarke said: "That would be a decision for the club themselves, but there's certainly the possibility there of lowering ticket prices and increasing their income, for those clubs where there's a high level of demand.

"It's possible to accommodate more people in the same area standing safely than it is sitting.

"Clubs could reduce ticket prices and increase the capacity and, in some cases, increase their income as well. Potentially everyone's a winner."