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The Premier League and SkyBet Championship will get safe standing if Liberals get their wish

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The Liberal Democrats want to change the law and allow Premier League and Championship clubs to introduce safe standing at stadiums.

The party has confirmed to it plans to make the pledge as part of its 2015 General Election manifesto.

Currently, the Football Spectators Act 1989 requires safety authorities to ensure fans attending games in England's top two divisions are seated.

However, the party is not advocating a return to open terracing.

It believes rail seats, popular in German football, should be introduced if clubs wish to install standing sections.

Rail seats can be locked in an upright position to allow fans to stand and lean against a barrier.

However, the seats can also be unlocked to comply with all-seater stadium rules, as and when required.

The Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) has led a campaign in favour of safe standing for several years.

"Football can't bury its head in the sand," said an FSF spokesman. "Tens of thousands already stand at games.

"Clubs who back rail seats are simply listening to their fans and responding to safety needs.

"Germany has had rail seats for many years and they have had no problems. The Government tells us it needs robust proof, so let's have a trial and see."

Several Premier League clubs - including Aston Villa, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Sunderland and Swansea City - now back the introduction of rail seats on a trial basis.

The Football League has also lobbied for a change in legislation given a number of its 72 clubs would like to implement standing in their grounds.

Chief executive Shaun Harvey said: "Since being given a mandate by our clubs to lobby for a change to the law on the use of standing accom­moda­tion, we have had useful discussions with the Sports Minister and other relevant stakeholders on this matter.

"We recognise that this is an extremely emotive issue and that significant change isn't necessarily going to happen overnight. However, a logical first step would be for safe standing products, such as rail-seating, to be licensed for use by the relevant authorities. This would enable one of the 21 Football League clubs that is not currently required by law to have an all-seater stadium to install a pilot scheme at its ground.

"This would give everybody greater insight into the use of this type of accommodation and help take the debate forward in a cautious and responsible manner, as it would not require any changes to the existing law as these clubs are already permitted to have fans standing at their matches."

However, the Premier League has reiterated its opposition, telling BBC Sport: "It remains the Premier League's position that stadiums should be all-seat, in line with government policy, and we will not be encouraging the government to change the law."

Liberal Democrat spokesperson John Leech MP believes the evidence to allow standing is overwhelming.

"Safe standing is allowed in many other sports and we do not believe that the top level of football should be an exception," he said.

"We are not calling for a return of the terraces of the 1980s. Modern safe standing areas using rail seating operate very successfully in top-tier football across Europe."

 

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