The refusal earlier this year of the Government to reject West Bromwich Albion’s application to pilot rail-seating technology at the Hawthorns catapulted the whole issue of Safe Standing into the public arena to a degree that supporters could hardly have anticipated. The club had asked for permission to install 3,600 rail-seats at the Hawthorns in both the home end and part of the away end. The application had the backing of both the local Safety Advisory Group and West Midlands Police but Sports Minister Tracey Crouch rejected the application – a decision described as ‘short sighted’ by the club-whilst claiming those in favour of Safe Standing to be in the ‘vocal minority’.
The decision came only a week after a delegation from Liverpool supporters Group ‘Spirit of Shankly’-following on from their membership voting in favour of rail seating following a consultation exercise last year- visited Celtic Park to observe the operation of Rail Seating at Celtic and described the visit as a ‘positive experience’.
The FSF has been long campaigning for the return of Safe Standing, co-ordinating its member groups to demonstrate support for its campaign, and encouraging positive engagement with stakeholders in the debate including fans themselves, clubs, the FA, EFL, Premier league ,ground Safety Authorities ,Police and the DCMS.
As a result of the refusal of West Brom’s application and the subsequent comments from Sports Minister Tracey Crouch claiming those in favour to be in the ‘vocal minority’ Safe Standing campaigner Jon Darch promoted a petition to ‘allow Premier League and Championship football clubs to introduce safe standing’. The petition collected over 112,000 resulting in the matter being listed for a Parliamentary debate on 25th June 2018.
Ahead of that debate in order to obtain the views of supporters Shadow Sports Minister Dr Rosena Allin -Khan has called a meeting of national supporter organisations, which will take place in London tomorrow, and NUST will be in attendance represented by Chair Peter Fanning.
On the Eve of the meeting the Government announced that it was starting a review of all-seater stadium policy in the top two divisions stating ‘the time is now right’ to look at the law in this area.
There is no doubt that momentum is gathering and changes are likely in the near future. More information to follow!
Newcastle United Supporters Trust