Norwich City fans invited to attend safe standing debate at Carrow Road
14:28 19 March 2014
The group campaigning to have standing areas built at Carrow Road are inviting Norwich City supporters to a debate at the club’s stadium tonight,
The Barclay End Projekt - spelt the German way in a nod to the country which already has safe standing at many football grounds - was founded last year.
Its aim is to get standing areas built at Carrow Road, and organisers David Wiltshire and Neil Thomson believe German-style rail seats in the lower section of the Barclay stand would do this safely.
Fans are invited to an open meeting at Carrow Road’s Norfolk Lounge to hear more about the campaign.
It has been organised by Norwich City Supporters’ Trust and will be held tonight at 8pm.
What does the law say?
Standing areas were outlawed at Premier League and Championship grounds under section 11 of the Football Spectators Act 1989.
It was initially planned that all Football League clubs must convert to all-seater status, but this was amended to just the top two tiers.
A similar amendment could permit safe standing areas within the top two tiers, and campaigners for the Football Supporters’ Federation believe this would not require an Act of Parliament.
There is no law preventing football fans from standing in a seated area - only a requirement that there is a seat for each fan.
But the Football League’s model set of ground regulations states persistent standing in seating areas while play is in progress may result in ejection from the ground.
Ground regulations are a matter for an individual club, and breach of these is a civil - not a criminal - matter.
Standing areas are currently outlawed in the top two tiers of football in England and Wales, but national pressure group the Football Supporters’ Federation is campaigning for the government to amend legislation.
Organisers of the Barclay End Project hope to win the support of Norwich City bosses as the national safe standing campaign continues.
Mr Wiltshire said the Hillsborough disaster is an emotive issue.
But he said rail seating would “not be a return to anything” as it is new, safe engineering.
Group organisers felt they lacked the hard data to prove the strength of opinion on safe standing to club bosses, so a survey was suggested.
The result is a far-reaching snapshot of fan opinion - with supporters polled on the approaches to the stadium so as not to focus on a single stand.
Some 853 fans completed the safe standing survey, and an overwhelming 88% were in favour of a safe standing area at Carrow Road and 87% feeling safe standing would improve the atmosphere at matches.
The research was carried out between December’s home game against Manchester United and the end of January, with Canaries away fans also canvassed for their views at the New Year’s Day match at Crystal Palace.
David Wiltshire, of the Barclay End Projekt, said: “We would like the club to engage with supporters on the issue.
“I don’t want the club to think this is a negative - this is a positive.
“As fans we want people to be able to stand and for people to sit without obstruction.”
He said a move to introduce some rail seating in the lower Barclay stand could increase capacity at Carrow Road, boosting ticket revenue even if ticket prices were reduced.
Nev Townsend, chairman of the Forces 2 Canaries group, said: “I don’t think the club is burying its head in the sand over this. “I just don’t think they realise the strength of feeling. I hope we can have a conversation.”
A Norwich City FC spokesman said: “Standing at Carrow Road and other Premier League and Championship stadiums around the country is currently illegal under section 11 of the Football Spectators Act 1989, and therefore the club does not have the power to unilaterally reintroduce safe standing at Carrow Road.
“The club is always interested in the views of all Norwich City fans and welcomes their opinions on a variety of matters. “However, the law of the land is paramount and our most important obligation is to ensure the comfort and safety of all visitors to Carrow Road at all times.”
• WHAT ARE RAIL SEATS?
Rail seats are robust metal seats with a high back that doubles as a sturdy rail for safe standing.
The seats can be locked in an upright position to create a standing area, or unlocked to create a seated area.
It is a system that is already used at some of Germany’s biggest grounds, including at Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion, which has a capacity of more than 80,000.
Other clubs with rail seats include Werder Bremen, Wolfsburg and Stuttgart.
The number of fans admitted into a stadium could be limited to one per rail seat or, if clubs wished, a second row of fans could be accommodated by adding a rear step along each row.
National pressure group the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) is campaigning for safe standing areas to be allowed at football clubs in the Championship and Premier League.
The FSF is calling on the government to amend legislation that bans standing areas in the top two divisions of football in England and Wales - and on individual clubs to embrace safe standing.
• WHAT DO OTHER FAN GROUPS THINK?
Fan groups said today they supported the calls for safe standing areas.
Ben East, of the Northern Canaries group, said he had first-hand experience of safe standing areas at German football grounds.
“It’s just brilliant,” he added.
“I’ve no doubt it would improve the atmosphere, and it wouldn’t be like a return to the bad old days with massive surges and problems.”
He said he believed rail seating is a safe system, and that he would be “all for it” in the Lower Barclay end.
Mr East said most fans stand at away games already.
Robin Sainty, a columnist for this newspaper and former chairman of the Independent Norwich City Supporters’ Club, said safe standing areas would “remove a lot of sources of friction” between seated fans and standing fans blocking their view.
He added rail seats would be safer than standing in an area designed for seating, where there are trip hazards.
While the Hillsborough disaster was a tragedy, Mr Sainty said “standing at football matches was around for 100 years” before then, and can be managed safely.