Stepping Out Towards Safe Standing
By Robert Nichols
Tuesday 05 Jun 2018 18:58:00
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Boro fans are pressing for safe standing in football as the pace is hotting in the debate over how we watch football. Currently officially blocked in the top two leagues of English football, the issue will be debated in parliament on 25th June. Ahead of the meeting Boro fans have been at the vanguard of the debate meeting politicians from both sides of the house.

Last week members of Middlesbrough Supporters Forum met with Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP, Simon Clarke at the Riverside. Tomorrow two delegates from Middlesbrough Supporters Forum will be joining other supporters for a round table discussion with Shadow Sports Minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan in the Houses of Parliament.

So, Boro fans are at the heart of this discussion pressing the opinion of Boro fans, expressed by a 4000 strong poll last summer where well over 90% were in favour of having a choice between sitting and standing at games. Following this all five local MPs offered their support when invited for a presentation at the Riverside by the forum.

This is in line with supporter polls through many clubs in the top two leagues. Last season there was a real landmark poll when 88% of 17 000 Liverpool supporters said yes to the choice to stand and sit at games. This was highly significant because terraces were closed down across the top two leagues following the Hillsborough disaster.

Simon Clarke has already pledged to speak up for us in the full debate on June 25th. He believes that rail seating technology takes the standing issue into a whole new ball game. Rail seating has been operating safely in Germany for many years and last season was licensed successfully at Celtic Park. Fans love these standing areas because they always seem to be the heart and soul of atmosphere. Indeed further down the league pyramid, Shrewsbury took out seats for crowdfunded rail seating just this season to improve the atmosphere at their recently built New Meadow stadium

Last week at the Riverside meeting, Middlesbrough FC COO Mark Ellis stated that Boro were neutral on the issue. Steve Gibson's priority is to spend every pound earned for new signings. He also is adamant that there be no obscured view seats in the stadium. Therefore any replacement of seats by rail seating must be done sensitively to those sitting either side. But Boro were happy to provide a venue for this debate and have not said no to change.

This is all hypothetical at present. Ever since Hillsborough it has been at the grace of the Home Secretary to ensure that the Premier League and the Championship remain all seating. Officially at any rate. Any away fan for Boro will tell you that nearly all away supporters stand throughout every game. That has been the case now for many years. This can be a problem for those unable to stand.

Standing between a rail front and back has to be safer than standing between rows of seats. The rails prevent any swaying.

The EFL have recently come out in support of safe standing. The presiding body over football safety, Sports Grounds Safety Authority are also now supporting the introduction of rail seating. This backs up the message from Football Supporters Federation that this is no longer a safety issue. If it is safe now to stand in modern facilities then safety should not be a reason to block fans wishes.

We will be taking that message to the Houses of Parliament this Wednesday.



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