The Arsenal Supporters Trust (AST) has thrown its support behind a campaign being run by the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) to reintroduce standing areas at grounds in England. Representatives from the FSF met with the AST on Monday and are united in their demand for trials of safe standing at Premier League, Championship and Football League stadia.
Various other Gunners fan organisations such as REDaction, the Black Scarf Movement and the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association also attended the open meeting, where the AST announced a questionnaire on the issue: “This survey is open to all Arsenal fans and we are hoping for a large response so that we can represent the views of as many people as possible on this important topic” (via Evening Standard).
Celtic introduced safe standing at the start of the 2016/17 season, and the success of the 2,600 capacity area at the ground has provided the AST with evidence that the system can work in the rest of the United Kingdom. While all-seater stadia have been required at top level clubs since the Taylor Report in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster, calls have been growing in recent years to reconsider the ban on standing sections. Those who support the campaign point to the atmosphere of Bundesliga grounds, where standing areas are the norm and safety is well-maintained.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore met with representatives of the AST in the summer of 2016, and promised to conduct formal research into the possibility along with consultation as to what form any reintroduction might take. However, British government approval would be required if existing legislation is to be amended or overturned in order to make way for safe standing at Premiership and Championship clubs.
Given the positive results of the practice in other countries and sports, Arsenal fans can look forward to a future where it is possible to watch their football team from a standing concourse. It is only a question of when the authorities feel that they can guarantee the safety of those who wish to do so.
For the time being, Arsenal fans who want to make their opinions on the subject known are invited to take the AST survey, available here.