Safe Standing

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Safe Standing and the potential beneficial impact on disabled away supporters

The Rt Hon Nigel Adams MP

Minister of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport,

House of Commons

London SW1A 0AA

31st January 2020

Dear Minister,

Safe Standing at Premier League Stadiums

The Premier League Disability Advisory Group, at its meeting on the 14th November 2019, unanimously voted to support safe standing, particularly in the away ends of Premier League Stadiums.

We applauded the Conservative Party’s pledge in their General Election manifesto to introduce safe standing.

We are therefore extremely disappointed that it has been felt necessary to delay a decision on permitting safe standing, not withstanding the sensitivity and the tragic incident that occasioned the legislation, the fact that away crowds do stand throughout every match is being ignored creating, ironically, associated safety issues affecting disabled supporters.

Away supporters stand at football matches, regardless of any legislation, to try and prevent standing is an impossible task for any club and all now simply accept the situation. In other words a blind eye is turned to this fact. Therefore given that reality, accepting the inability to enforce the law, safe standing should be permitted without delay.

Our Group’s view is that, certainly in the away areas, unrestricted movement of able bodied fans facilitates crowd surges creating significant dangers to disabled supporters. These sections should be fitted with rail barriers without delay (installed at Wolves, Celtic and some Bundesliga clubs).

Standing rails achieve two objectives - a safe environment for standing supporters and improved safety for disabled supporters, the most vulnerable during crowd trouble.

You might also consider that if rails without the plastic seats (not currently legally allowed) were installed they could not then be torn out and used as missiles as illustrated at the Manchester Cup derby two days ago.

Ugly scenes: seats are ripped out and thrown from the United section. A group of United fans tore up seats and hurled them towards City’ supporters.

Daily Mail - Editions 30th and 31st January 2020

It is therefore regretted that any change to the law banning standing areas at Premier League grounds will be delayed until at least the 2021-22 season after an independent review said that more evidence was needed!

The type of rails illustrated below do actually assist in restricting crowd movement and surges thus adding to the safety of our disabled members as this prevents or restricts dangerous incursions affecting wheelchairs and ambulant disabled located in the front rows of the away stands. Illustrated above.

Standing Area Rails installed at Wolves and Celtic.

The seats are maintained for legal compliance but the rails improve the safety aspects given the inevitable standing of supporters particularly in the away end of stadiums.

The seats are maintained for legal compliance but the rails improve the safety aspects given the inevitable standing of supporters particularly in the away end of stadiums.

Potential Police issues

We contend that these rails :

Separate by row the standing supporters

Prevent crowd surges as a body

Restrict spectator movement

Improve the safety of disabled fans

Result :-

Individuals involved in anti-social behaviour are easier to identify and potentially less difficult to remove than if they were in a heaving mass.

We would respectfully request that, at least in the away areas of the stadiums, that safe standing be introduced without delay, mandating the rail installations outlined above.

Yours faithfully

David J Butler FCA MBE

Chair Premier League Disability Advisory Group

Copy The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP

Secretary of State for the Home Department

Copy Julian Knight MP

Chair of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee

Background - Context

The Premier League Disability Advisory Group (DAG) was formed in February 2018 to bring together representatives of Premier League Disability Supporters Associations (DSA) to create a consultative forum focusing on the experience of being a disabled fan of a Premier League club. Its general purpose is to offer practical common-sense guidance, suggestions and opinion on a variety of relevant topics to the Premier League.

The formation of the group was prompted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s suggesting that the Premier League needed to communicate more directly with its disabled supporters.

Three years ago the Premier League asked David Butler, the Chair of the Enables Disabled Group at Watford FC, to create and Chair the Group which has now grown to include 18 of the 20 clubs and directly represents thousands of disabled fans.