Section 11.1 of the Football Spectators Act provides the Secretary of State with the power to stipulate that certain football grounds are all-seated, a power that is currently applied to the top two divisions. This section should be repealed.
Practical experience shows that the all-seater rules are unenforceable. Every week, thousands of people stand in front of their seats for the duration of the game. Many who would like to sit down are unable to use their seats, as they find their view blocked. Varied and repeated attempts to tackle this practice have failed.
The evidence demonstrates that when those who wish to stand are provided with designated Safe Standing areas, the issue of standing in seated areas largely goes away. This benefits everyone.
In England and Wales, Safe Standing areas are permitted at rugby union and rugby league venues, as well as at speedway and horse racing events. Safe Standing is also allowed at football grounds outside the top two divisions, subject to the stringent standards laid down in the Government's Green Guide. The idea that the safety of an stadium depends on the type and quality of event happening on the pitch is absurd. This anomoly can best be tackled by removing section 11.1.
Why is this idea important?
Clubs promoted to the second division ('The Championship') are punished for their success and forced to convert their stadiums to all-seating. Aside from the initial costs of conversion, this tends to lower stadium capacities, which denies their supporters access to big games and hits their future revenue streams.
Further, in doing so, they create what the Independent Football Commission described as 'the major customer care issue at grounds' – by having to confront their own supporters who wish to stand, and deal with complaints from others who do not.