England and Wales could be just months away from its first-ever Safe Standing area after leading campaigner John Leech threw his weight behind a new campaign.
In a speech made at the Liberal Democrat Conference taking place in Bournemouth this week, Mr Leech told members that Safe Standing is “an idea whose time had come”.
Plans to introduce Safe Standing inched forward just under a year ago when top clubs agreed to hold further discussions over Safe Standing. But now it seems it finally might become a reality after a Shrewsbury Town fans’ group launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise £75,000 to install 550 rail seats at their New Meadow ground.
The former Liberal Democrat MP has long campaigned in favour of Safe Standing and the introduction of rail seating. Ahead of the 2017 General Election, he announced his party’s policy to introduce the scheme across the country following a groundswell of support for his previously released plans which would dramatically improve safety at football matches, as well as help to cut ticket prices.
Talking to the Liberal Democrat conference in Bournemouth today, the Manchester City season ticket holder enthusiastically threw his weight behind the Shrewsbury campaign and urged others to support the initiative.
He said: “The current system simply doesn’t work; fans who attend matches still continue to stand, but do so unsafely. The solution is to introduce railed Safe Standing at football grounds which will make it safer for spectators, and which recognises and accommodates those fans who already, and will continue to stand.”
“Safe Standing offers supporters more choice, a better atmosphere, and cheaper tickets. It is an idea whose time has come and I’m so pleased that real progress is finally being made.”
A survey by national fans group The Football Supporters Federation found 92% of fans were in favour of the introduction, but standing has been banned in English football’s top two divisions since 1989 when 96 people died in the Hillsborough Disaster but Mr Leech said that clubs should look to Celtic Park in Glasgow to see how successfully it has been implemented there.