City’s position at the forefront of the nationwide debate about safe standing at football grounds will be further enhanced this week as club chairman Ed Balls stars in a Watchdog special tonight (BBC1 – 20:00) on the emotive issue.
The debate – already aired of late here on MyFootballWriter – can divide opinion and has caused much upset among the Lower Barclay faithful – likely to be one of the first ‘seating’ areas in the country to trial the new safer standing infrastructure on show in the BBC1 documentary.
To quote the BBC…
Watchdog Live”, Wednesday 23rd May 2018:
Ed Balls, former Labour MP and Chairman of Norwich City Football Club, joins the debate around safe standing in football on this week’s “Watchdog Live”.
A lifelong football fan, Ed tells the programme he recalls the atmosphere in the Norwich City ground when attending matches as a child.
In 1989 the Hillsborough disaster led to a change in the law. As a result of the tragedy – which led to the death of ninety-six football fans – new legislation banned standing areas in English and Welsh football grounds in the top two divisions.
In the “Watchdog Live” report, Ed Balls meets Jay McKenna, who chairs the Liverpool fan group “Spirit of Shankly”. In 2017 the group held a survey which showed that 88% of its members are now in favour of safe standing areas.
Jay tells the programme: “I think the size of the vote in favour was surprising.
Even within families there’s a conversation to be had. You know there’s a supporter I speak to whose dad died at Hillsborough. He’s in favour. But his dad’s mate who he went to the match with, who lived through that next to him, he’s undecided.
And there are opposing voices, let’s have a conversation about those.”
It is an issue that divides football supporters. In Scotland, Celtic installed a railed seating area in 2016 in which the seats can be folded and locked in place for safe standing.
In the programme, Ed Balls meets Amanda Jacks from the Football Supporters Federation, which has been campaigning in favour of safe standing for over 15 years. She shows him an example of rail seating and how it is intended to work, explaining “It’s locked in the upright position so supporters can stand in front of it.
“You have a rail here and a rail here, so you are protected from falling forward, and you are protected from someone behind you falling on top of you and it also gives you your personalised space.”
It’s a proposal that Ed believes makes sense. “To me, that feels safer than what we often see in grounds up and down the country, people not sitting but standing between or even on seats.”
“And while this is an issue which divides supporters, I think it’s the right time to at least ask the question of whether safe standing can be introduced.”
On the 25th June Parliament will debate the re-introduction of safe standing areas in football grounds following a petition that has reached over 100,000 signatures.
In the “Watchdog Live” report Ed Balls also speaks to Damian Collins, Conservative MP and Chair of the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, who tells him:
“You’ve either got to have a system where you have safe standing with barriers, or you have proper stewarding of the grounds to stop people standing. At the moment, we’ve got the worst of all worlds which is unsafe standing in large areas of football grounds.
“Now is the time to have this debate and I think it’s rightly being led by voices within football calling for change.”