SUNDERLAND AFC has given fans a temporary ban for refusing to sit down at the Stadium of Light.
Thirty-eight season card holders were told they were not allowed to attend a game because they have been persistently standing despite being told to sit down.
Notices were bound to seats for the Boxing Day clash with Manchester City.
Club bosses say the move is in response to complaints from fans, particularly in the south stand, that their “view of the game is being compromised” by those who stand up during the 90 minutes.
They add they have a legal obligation to take steps because it breaches ground regulations and by not taking action, it could face reducing the capacity of certain areas of the stadium, and if it continues, closed altogether.
It says this could impact on season card holders sitting in those areas, which it is “keen to avoid”.
Head of safety and security at Sunderland AFC, Paul Weir, said: “The figure for fans ejected due to persistent standing last season as a whole was just 20 so we can see that there has been a significant increase in the early part of this season.
“We certainly don’t wish to spoil the enjoyment of any supporters.
“We want a vibrant lively matchday atmosphere just as much as the fans do, but we also have legal obligations.
“We also have a duty of care to all of our supporters, including elderly and disabled fans who have contacted us very concerned that their enjoyment on a matchday is being compromised because people around them stand throughout the game. We want to ensure a safe, comfortable and enjoyable experience for everyone.
“We’d ask supporters to listen to requests from stewards and help us to eradicate persistent standing for the sake of all fans.”
‘Arbitrary and unnecessary’
THE Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF), which is campaigning for the reintroduction of safe standing at matches, said it sympathised with SAFC’s position over standing fans.
FSF’s Peter Daykin said: “The FSF does not support punitive measures like supporter bans as a reaction to the problem of persistent standing. They are arbitrary, unnecessary and we see no evidence that they work in the long term.
“When the away fans were moved to the Premier Concourse, the club took the opportunity to both revamp the family area of the ground and create a new singing section.
“Whilst the club has an obligation to police persistent standing in order to satisfy the terms of their safety certificate, they recognised that a proportion of supporters in the new singing area wished to stand to sing for longer periods and suggested that they did so in the area behind the concourse.
“Our understanding of the situation is that these bans have been imposed on supporters standing persistently in the area in front of the concourse, amongst fans who wish to sit.
“We would urge supporters with tickets in the South Stand who prefer to stand while they sing to contact the club with a view to moving behind the line of the concourse.
“If fans prefer to contact the FSF rather than the club, we will seek to arrange a meeting with the appropriate parties at the club on the supporters’ behalf.”
For more about the FSF, email firstname.lastname@example.org
SUNDERLAND supporters collecting tickets for today’s crunch clash with Spurs gave their reaction to the club’s response to complaints of persistent standing.
Joe Glancy, 49, from Ashbrooke, said: “I think it’s harsh. I don’t think it does any harm because everyone had notice it was going to be a singing end. Anywhere else in the ground would be different but my son moved there to get involved with the singing.”
Dave Thompson, 33, from Grindon, said: “It’s shocking.
“I am in the crazy corner and it’s not over-populated, it’s just people choosing to stand.
“It’s not dangerous, like it was at Hillsborough. They tried to start a bit of atmosphere with the singing end so this sends a bit of a mixed message. I’ve supported Sunderland all my life and chucking people out is just daft.”
Jimmy Rutherford, 42, from South Shields, said: “It’s a hard one. I moved there to get involved with the singing and I think people who get a season ticket there and expect people to sit down are a bit naive.
“I’d understand if people were getting hurt but it does seem a bit daft.
“The thing is it’s the same all over the country with other fans.”
Andy Gillespie, 35, from Monkwearmouth, said: “In my opinion there should be an area where people can stand, not just here but at every ground. I understand the club have got to stick by the rules but everyone is in favour of it really as long as it’s safe.”