Sunderland councillor calls on Government to allow safe standing at Stadium of Light

A Sunderland councillor has written to the Sports Minister, calling for a rethink on standing at football matches.

Councillor Stephen O'Brien is calling on the Sports Minister to allow safe standing in all stadiums.
Councillor Stephen O'Brien is calling on the Sports Minister to allow safe standing in all stadiums.

Under current law stadiums in the Championship and Premier League must be all-seater.

This means that Sunderland AFC, currently in League One, are free to convert sections of the Stadium of Light to standing. This would be rail standing; steel rails bolted down immediately before and behind standing spectators to prevent crowd surges.

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However, if the club is promoted they would then have to revert back to all-seating.

Safe. Rail standing at the home of Hannover 96 in Germany.

Grindon and Thorney Close Lib Dem councillor, Stephen O'Brien, wants the Government to allow rail standing at all English football grounds. The system operates in Scotland, Germany and the USA; as well as in other sports in England.

SAFC’s executive director, Charlie Methven, said recently that safe standing at the SOL is a possibility, but was mindful of the cost of installing it, then possibly having to change back.

Councillor O’Brien, a safe standing campaigner and SAFC season card holder, has written to the Government’s Sports Minister, Mims Davies, to ask her for a law change.

He said: “It’s encouraging to see supporters and senior figures at the club backing the long-running campaign for safe standing at the Stadium of Light.

“Safe standing offers supporters more choice, a better atmosphere and cheaper tickets.

“Crucially, it is not a return to the terraces of the 1980s. Rail seat has proper stewarding and safety mechanisms in place to protect fans. In fact it would be better than the current situation where people stand up anyway in seated areas that aren’t properly designed for it.“However, the big hurdle to SAFC or any other club in the Championship introducing safe standing is what happens if - as I hope will occur - we get promoted back to the Championship next season and the safe standing area has to be closed due to the Government ban.

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"Clubs that have listened to fans and introduced safe standing should not be penalised if they get promoted.

“That’s why the Liberal Democrats want the Government to move the goalposts on safe standing and change the law to allow it in the Championship and Premiership.”