Lib Dem manifesto plan could see safe standing at Stadium of Light
By Stephen O'Brien
Safe standing campaigners on Wearside have welcomed a commitment in the Liberal Democrats manifesto published today (20th November) to introduce safe standing at football grounds in England.
The Liberal Democrats manifesto for the General Election on 12th December has been published today, and includes a commitment to "move towards introducing 'safe standing' at football clubs, requiring the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to prepare guidance for implementing this change."
The commitment has been welcomed by local Liberal Democrats in the city, including longstanding safe standing campaigner and local councillor Stephen O'Brien who has previously called on the Government to allow safe standing at grounds in all tiers of English football.
Safe standing in the form of 'rail seating' allows fans to stand on a terrace, but with each row separated by a rail to prevent crowd surges. The system operates in football stadiums in Europe and Scotland, as well as other sports in England
And whilst SAFC's Executive Director Charlie Methven has previously said the club was exploring the possibility of introducing a safe standing area at the Stadium of Light, if safe standing was introduced it would - under current laws - have to be removed in future years if the club were promoted to the Championship and Premiership, as safe standing is banned for clubs in the top two tiers of English football.
Commenting, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidate for Houghton and Sunderland South Paul Edgeworth said:
"Liberal Democrats would allow safe standing to operate in all grounds at all levels of English football where it can be properly stewarded and where there is support from fans.
"Crucially this isn't a return to the terraces of the 1980s - rail seating has proper stewarding and safety mechanisms in place to protect fans and would be much better than the current situation where people stand up anyway in seated areas that aren't properly designed for it.
"This is absolutely the right thing to do and would see greater choice, a better atmosphere and cheaper tickets for Sunderland fans at the Stadium of Light."
Sunderland season ticket holder and Lib Dem councillor for Grindon and Thorney Close Stephen O'Brien added:"Safe standing is absolutely wanted by football fans in Sunderland and across the country and the law should be changed to allow it happen.
"At the moment the big hurdle to SAFC or any other club in League 1 introducing safe standing is what happens if we get promoted back to the Championship next season and the safe standing area has to be closed due to the current Government ban.
"Clubs that have listened to fans and introduced safe standing should not be penalised if they get promoted. That's why the Liberal Democrats want to move the goalposts on safe standing and change the law to allow it in the Championship and Premiership."