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Battle lines drawn over safe standing in EFL

The chief executive of the English Football League (EFL) has written to the UK Sports Minister urging her to review legislation on standing at football.

Shaun Harveywrote to Tracey Crouch this week after she rejected the application by West Bromwich Albion to install rail seating at the Hawthorns.

Harvey re-affirmed the EFL’s commitment to safe standing and its member clubs being able to offer choice to supporters.

Harvey told the minister:

There is significant popular demand from supporters for standing to be permitted at all professional football matches.

The Government should not underestimate how popular a change in approach would be with the football supporting element of the electorate.

Harvey argues that clubs should be given the freedom to offer accommodation to supporters that best supports their needs – whether they be seats, dual-purpose technologies such as rail seating or dedicated standing areas.

Additionally, he argues that the all-seater requirements place an unfair burden on clubs that get promoted to the Championship from League One. He said:

Clubs that have played in the Championship for three seasons often have to commit significant resources to re-develop perfectly adequate standing facilities into seated accommodation that they (or their supporters) do not necessarily want.

The EFL has long supported the safe standing campaign and last season backed Shrewsbury Town’s application to have rail seating installed at New Meadow.

The Shrews, in play-off contention, could be playing in the same division as West Brom next season – one club being allowed to use dual-purpose standing accommodation, and the other not.

Harvey said legislation that allowed this scenario to exist was “no longer appropriate” for the modern match-day experience and called for an immediate, wide-ranging review of the law.

The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) said Crouch is “declaring war on fans” by rejecting safe standing.

FSF’s Peter Daykin said:

Tracey Crouch is not offering a solution. Forcing fans to sit down at all-seater stadiums doesn’t work, so by turning a blind eye to safe standing, she is basically telling them to solve the issue.

Meanwhile, a petition to the Government on the issue has passed 70,000 signatures.