Speaking at today's “Safe Standing” event, John Darch from the Safe Standing Roadshow said that Bangor City have the opportunity “to be trailblazers” in the future development of safe standing areas at football grounds within the UK.
John, who supports Bristol City, has led the campaign for safe standing areas to be introduced at any grounds that wish to have them. The sytem is well used on the continent, with nine out of eighteen Bundesliga clubs currently having the system installed.
So what is safe standing?
Robust metal seats with a high back forming a sturdy rail for safe standing. Fitted in place of normal seats they link together to create a continuous, strong rail right along the row. Height and strength comply with government requirements. They are also approved for use as seats by UEFA and FIFA, e.g. for World Cup and Champions League matches.
The seats fold up flush between the uprights, thus creating wider clearways than along rows of normal seats. Rail seats are widely used in Germany. UK distribution is via the supplier of all 60,000 seats for the Emirates Stadium.
The history of rail seats
German football clubs see standing as an integral part of fan culture. Every ground provides standing areas. At 2011 champions Borussia Dortmund, for instance, there is standing for 27,000 fans, a third of the stadium capacity. In 2000, the clubs faced a challenge. UEFA stipulated that grounds staging Champions League and UEFA Cup games had to be all-seater. What to do? The clubs were committed to standing but had to comply with UEFA’s new rules. They found three solutions.
One was ‘Variositze’, ‘rail seats’ to us.
Some clubs with rail seats:
Hannover 96, Werder Bremen, Stuttgart, Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen and HSV.
A solution for the UK?
The Safe Standing Roadshow believe that rail seats now present a solution to the situation in the UK, where sizeable numbers of fans want to stand, the authorities need to ensure maximum safety and top clubs need to comply with UEFA/FIFA requirements.
While seats can remain locked in the ‘up’ position for standing use, club staff can quickly unlock them in advance of UEFA/ FIFA games with a special key.
The average cost per seat is believed to be in the region of £70.
Several MP's, and Assembly Members were at today's road show, including the former Sports Minister at the Welsh Assembly Alun Pugh, and North Wales AM Aled Roberts, a former solicitor. Both agreed that the use of the seats does not require a change to primary legislation, with the Secretary of State able to authorise their use in stadia. Current proposals to change the Welsh Assemblies powers would also see the assembly able to authorise their use. All but one assembly member recently voted in favour of their introduction.
The seating sytem has the full backing of UEFA and FIFA. In fact the sytaem has already been used in both the World Cup and European Championships.
John Darch was keen to point out that the amount of publicity currently being generated by clubs that express an interest in the system can lead to positive benefits for any potential sponsor, with one club being the largest read article on the world's largest read English language website.
Further details about the campaign can be found at www.safestandingroadshow.co.uk
Photographs from today's event can be viewed here