From January next year, leading clubs will be allowed to offer safe standing areas. But it’s something the Football Supporters Association has been calling on for decades. Why did it take so long?
Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.
One story every day to make sense of the world of football.
Today, a huge victory for safe standing campaigners.
Football fans haven’t been allowed to stand to watch Premier League or Championship matches for almost 30 years.
But now that’s set to change.
Leading clubs will be allowed to offer safe standing areas from January next year.
It comes after a Government announcement last month. But it’s something the Football Supporters Association has been calling for for decades.
FSA safe standing co-ordinator and football fan Pete Daykin has been working towards this ultimate goal for the last 14 years.
“Anything where you fight for ages for something and you start from a position where everybody thinks you’re mental and not telling you that and I’ll say, we will never agree with this. And you’re seen as a kind of, as a lunatic and then slowly slowly inch by inch kind of year by year, you get more people involved.”Pete Daykin, Football Supporters Association
And he’s over the moon that the hard work has finally paid off.
“And when you see it getting slowly better and slowly better and then for it to, you know, 20 odd years later for it to kind of come through is clearly absolutely kind of absolutely amazing and it makes you feel, you know, relieved and happy and proud and excited and and honoured to have been there for the journey alongside lots of other people who’ve worked really, really, really hard to do it and and ended up forming a kind of a ragtag team that was kind of, amazing and brilliant.”Pete Daykin, Football Supporters Association
It’s a huge step forward for those football supporters who want to stand up when they support their team.
But the question is, why did it take so long?
Football had a huge problem with hooliganism in the 1980s. And after the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, Lord Justice Taylor oversaw a report that made 76 recommendations to ensure better safety at football stadiums.
No-one wanted to see people die at a football match ever again.
And although the report found failure of police control was the main reason for the tragedy at Hillsborough, standing was outlawed completely.
It totally revolutionised English football. Terraces were demolished. New stadiums were built.
After a couple of years, standing was reintroduced for League One and Two clubs, but was still firmly outlawed in the top two divisions. That was, until last month.
Pete and the other campaigners backed the 1989 Taylor Report. But they disagreed with the standing ban.
The report said that standing was not intrinsically unsafe. But there was understandably a lot of emotion attached to what happened at Hillsborough.
“And I think the, you know, over the course of the campaign, we became better at campaigning. We definitely, you know, got the message through better. We understood the importance of working as a partner, around the table with the football authorities rather than standing on the outside shouting at them for doing the wrong thing, which for a lot of years, we did.
But also just the conversation changed, people started to get it and and and also standing never went away. I think that’s one of the important things as well, that the longer it went on the more, it was obvious that people were always gonna stand and we were, we had the worst of both worlds.
People were still standing, but we weren’t able to manage it safely and properly because… because it was a big secret because everybody pretended, it didn’t happen because it was against the law and they couldn’t stop it.”Pete Daykin, Football Supporters Association
As Pete says, fans were standing anyway.
But it was uncontrolled, unregulated… and it was still illegal.
So the FSA’s argument that making standing legal would lead to increased safety began to make more sense. The supporters campaign became evidence-based, and advances in technology such as CCTV in stadiums began to sway public opinion.
But they still had to change the law and that’s a mammoth task.
“And then I think that the other thing that we learnt is just how hard it is to change the law in this country. The actual practicality of changing laws is… is ridiculously difficult. We got all excited when MPs put an early day motion on the House of Commons and start standing…
Oh, we think we get standing back and people are agreeing with them. And we’re like yeah, brilliant! And there was a vote, they all voted for and it was like, yeah, great. This is brilliant! And then, we’re like, right, what happens now expecting, you know, that it to be on TV on Monday and the law changed on Tuesday, and, and the response we got back as well.. well, nothing, it’s just like an early day motion. It’s just really just, it’s just a chat, really.”Pete Daykin, Football Supporters Association
After 32 years the FSA has finally achieved what they set out to do and so much more too. They’ve learned how to run a very long and difficult campaign. And how to work with organisations instead of just butting heads with them.
“That has happened because of a decade and a half of effective, campaigning and relationship building between supporters…not just the FSA, but, you know, alongside the FSA between supporters groups and, you know, the Premier League, the Football League, the Sports Ground Safety Authority, the Police, DCMS, you know, a bunch of different people.
The FA… a bunch of different people who all are together involved in running the game in this country and I think that can only be a good thing because the the more the supporters voice is heard in the you know, in the halls of the people that make the decisions and the louder that voice is… and the better it’s understood and the more it’s listened to… the more say we’re going to have in the game and the better it’s going to be for everybody in the long run.”Pete Daykin, Football Supporters Association
Pete says that the FSA have learned a huge amount about themselves because of this campaign. They’re stronger for it.
And like he says, a strong organisation that gives football supporters a voice that is better for everyone in the long run.
Today’s episode was written by Chloe Beresford and produced by Studio Klong.