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Safe standing at football grounds should be a matter for clubs and fans – not politicians

Sir Kevin Barron MP
Sir Kevin Barron MP

Last week in Parliament, a debate was held to discuss safe standing at English Premier League and Championship football grounds.

I believe sport must be run in the interests of those who participate in it and love it.

I support safe standing and believe the decision to introduce it should be devolved to clubs, fans and safety authorities who know their stadium better than anybody in Whitehall.

This is also supported by the Premier League and Football League, which means there is a unified voice across the professional leagues that are affected by the current restrictions.

It is clear from various surveys that fans want a safe standing option.

Having consulted with football clubs, supporters, groups, safety authorities and the leagues, Labour has committed to allowing the installation of specialised rail seating where appropriate, or standing in current seated areas where it can be made safe to do so.

Of course, the prime concern must be safety and I would like the number of designated safe standing spaces within a stadium capped at 7,500, in line with what the English Football League has proposed.

This would not be a step back for football or a return to the terraces of the 1980s.

It is about moving football forward so that spectating becomes safer and more inclusive.

The Government has said it will commission external analysis of evidence relating to the all-seater policy.

Initial analysis is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

While I am pleased safe standing is being reviewed, I believe the Government has consistently dragged its feet on this issue.

It is time for change and I will continue to press for fans, clubs and local safety authorities to be given the power to decide.