Lib Dems woo football fans

By Sam Dale

Safe standing in football stadiums could be introduced by a Liberal Democrat government, their culture, media and sport spokesman announced today.

Don Foster said politicians could not ignore large numbers of fans who want to stand and that mandatory all-seater stadiums for the top two leagues could be ended.

Mr Foster said: “The Liberal Democrats are committed to exploring options for introducing safe standing at football grounds in consultation with fans, clubs and safety experts and have passed a motion at our party conference to this effect.

“The evidence from countries like Germany shows that safe standing can operate effectively and safely to give fans more choice about how they enjoy the game.”

He added: “This is a sensitive issue. But we cannot ignore the large numbers of fans who want to stand.”

The ban on standing in the top two leagues has been in place since 1994 following the Taylor Report, commissioned after the Hillsborough disaster, which killed 96 fans.

Steven Powell, the Football Supporters federation director of policy, told the Independent: “Standing isn’t a nostalgic 20th century throwback. It’s the future.

“Look at Germany, Austria, the US and Canada. It’s a choice that fans want, including those who prefer to sit. It’s safe and it’s inclusive.

“To maintain the ban in the face of the evidence is illogical, arrogant and perverse.”

But the Hillsborough Family Support Group, which supports seating, suggested there was “no such thing as safe standing”.

The Labour government is unwilling to consider proposals to move back to standing in some areas.

“It would need a dramatic shift in football authority opinion backed by clear evidence before government would look at supporting any change to existing policy,” sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe told the Independent.