The EFL and the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) have today launched a joint campaign, backed by Brentford FC, calling on fans to ‘Stand up for Choice’ on the issue of licensed standing areas at stadiums and seek changes to the current legislation which imposes restrictions on EFL Clubs. The ‘Stand up for Choice’ campaign has been designed to provoke a progressive and informed debate whilst seeking to highlight the significant support that exists amongst football fans who want the ability to have a choice between standing and being seated at EFL matches. Today’s announcement will see the launch of a dedicated fans’ survey, which will provide key data and insight on the views of supporters nationwide in addition to the existing petition which has already illustrated the strength of feeling on the wider issue.
Brentford FC shared that petition – started by fans calling for a debate in Parliament on allowing clubs in the top two divisions of English football to have standing areas within grounds – with supporters on social media last week. The Club is one of only two in the top tiers with terraces with standing available for home and away fans. Brentford FC has reiterated for a number of years that the Club would welcome the chance to pilot safe standing areas at the Club’s new stadium should legislation allow.
EFL Chief Executive Shaun Harvey, said: “We understand why the issue of standing at football matches is sensitive. The safety of all fans is of paramount importance to everyone, including Government, and they are rightly concerned about any change that could increase the safety risk and then see them accountable for this.
“We recognise that to effect change we will need a partnership approach and this will commence with our survey to demonstrate that those who attend fixtures, want to see the change and be offered a choice, even if they still choose to be seated. Our Clubs and their fans should be part of the solution.”
Mark Devlin, Brentford FC Chief Executive, said: “It is clear to us from our discussions with supporters that Brentford fans want the option to stand to watch their football. New stadiums, and even older grounds like Griffin Park, are now very safe places to attend matches. Safety is paramount whenever we hold a game, procedures are rigorous and all our staff are highly trained.
“There is no real reason that we can see for supporters not to be allowed to stand in certain areas of stadiums. I welcome this campaign and encourage Brentford fans to fill in the survey. The Club will be backing the campaign and will continue to work on having standing areas at our new stadium if legislation allows.”
Approximately 18 million supporters make their way through the turnstiles of EFL Clubs over the course of a season, and with 800,000 people expected to attend matches across the EFL over the remaining two weekends of the season, ’Stand up for Choice’ will provide football fans with a collective voice before the survey closes on May 10. The EFL has had a clear mandate from clubs to pursue change since 2014 and is keen to have an active dialogue with supporter groups, safety authorities and senior Government Ministers to achieve a review of existing legislation so that clubs have a choice on this matter and fans get the match day experience they want - whether that be seated or standing on terraces.
Harvey continued: “The EFL would like to see current legislation reviewed by the Government and ultimately amended so that clubs have the opportunity to provide standing accommodation to their supporters at all matches played in the Championship, League One and League Two, should they wish to. There are 21 EFL clubs across our three divisions that currently offer licensed standing areas to supporters and it is unclear to us how such areas would be any less safe if operated on an identical basis at other clubs playing in the same competitions. Nor is the logic clear to us why clubs can offer standing in League One and League Two but not to the same fans, in the same stands, at the same grounds after three years of playing in the Championship or above. If standing areas are licensed as being safe, they don’t become any less safe just because the standard of football being played on the pitch is different.
“By surveying fans, we will be in a position to provide Government with a clear indication of the strength of feeling amongst those supporters who attend EFL matches every season. I urge all supporters of EFL clubs to respond to the ‘Stand up for Choice’ campaign, to make your voice heard at this time and to demonstrate that having the choice of whether to stand or sit is what the majority of fans want.
“The benefit of having a choice for fans is that those in seated areas are more likely to refrain from standing during matches, which in turn will make it easier for clubs to manage those who persistently stand without the conflict that can occur when they seek to achieve this now. As stated earlier, this is not an issue whereby change is easy to achieve and we also call on the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) to clarify the guidance they have given to Government in recent weeks in order to ensure the Minister of Sport can lead an informed public debate.”
Peter Daykin, standing co-ordinator at the Football Supporters' Federation, said: "The FSF campaign has always been about providing fans with the choice to sit or stand at football. Those who prefer to stand should be able to do so and help generate the fantastic atmosphere that our game is famous for, while those who prefer to sit should be allowed to without having to worry about their views being blocked. There is no reason that this cannot be delivered safely by clubs. Eighteen millions fans make their way to EFL games every season and the Championship is the third most attended league in Europe - theirs is a voice of experience which must be listened to within this debate. It's great to have such an important football institution engage so positively with the campaign, working hand-in-hand with fans to make the case for standing at football."
The data from the survey will be collated and presented to the relevant Government and safety authorities to provide clear evidence to deliver an informed debate on this issue. The survey can be accessed online via efl.com/standupforchoice.