A group of European football fan organisations have launched a campaign calling on governing body UEFA to overturn what they term an “outdated” ban on standing in stadia during its competitions.
The campaign, entitled ‘Europe Wants to Stand’, was launched during the UEFA Champions League game between Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur at Signal Iduna Park on Tuesday evening. Along with banners at games, the organisers have written an open letter to UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin and the Executive Committee calling on the governing body to end a ban that was implemented in 1998 following major incidents in a number of stadia.
The German Bundesliga is one league that permits safe standing at its stadia, but clubs such as Dortmund have to implement an all-seater strategy when hosting European games. The letter has been signed by Football Supporters Europe, along with national organisations in Belgium, Denmark, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Ireland, Spain, Sweden, Portugal and Wales.
It read: “As you are no doubt aware, the standing ban was closely linked to several disasters in European stadia and was intended as a quick solution to improve the safety of spectators. However, a number of long-term evaluations have concluded that the existence of standing sections was NOT the cause of these tragedies.
“The fact that it is possible to provide standing sections without safety or security risks at football matches is clearly evident in Germany, where approximately 100,000 fans stand up every weekend to support their team, contributing to the much vaunted atmosphere at Bundesliga matches.
“In contrast, the English authorities have tried unsuccessfully to force fans to sit for the past two decades. At every Premier League and Championship game, thousands of fans stand in areas not specifically designed for standing. The situation in Germany is especially absurd, with extra seats having to be installed at a high cost for UEFA club competitions, even though fans end up standing on or between seats anyway.
“In addition to the security aspect, the all-seater policy and the associated increase in ticket prices has also led to the exclusion of young and low-income fans, which should neither be underestimated nor ignored by UEFA. It is our belief that stadia must be open to people from all walks of life. The provision of tickets in standing areas is one of the easiest ways to achieve this objective.”
There has been a growing campaign to reintroduce standing into major English football stadia. In January, Premier League club Wolverhampton Wanderers announced that it is piloting a section of seating options that could be used for safe standing should government legislation on all-seater stadia change.
Wolves’ Molineux stadium became one of the first grounds in the Premier League to pilot the seating options, with the UK government having last year commissioned an official review into safe standing. Standing has been outlawed in the top two leagues of English football since the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans.
The letter noted that countries such as Scotland, the Netherlands and France have lifted the strict ban on standing in recent years. It added: “We expect UEFA to pick up on these developments. Fan-friendly arrangements at local or national level should not be blocked by UEFA requirements, which are based on outdated evidence.”
Image: Borussia Dortmund