EFL AND FANS TO MAKE A STAND

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Tom Black­ett

THE EFL have joined forces with the Foot­ball Sup­port­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion as the bid for safe stand­ing across English foot­ball’s top di­vi­sions heats up.

They have launched a cam­paign call­ing fans of EFL Clubs to ‘Stand up for Choice’ on the issue of li­censed stand­ing ar­eas at sta­di­ums and seek changes to the cur­rent leg­is­la­tion which im­poses re­stric­tions on EFL Clubs.

The Foot­ball Spec­ta­tors Act, which was in­tro­duced in re­sponse to the Tay­lor re­port in the aftermath of the 1989 Hills­bor­ough dis­as­ter, re­quires all-seater sta­di­ums in the top two di­vi­sions of English foot­ball.

Fri­day’s an­nounce­ment will see the launch of a ded­i­cated fans’ sur­vey, which will pro­vide key data and in­sight on the views of sup­port­ers na­tion­wide in ad­di­tion to the ex­ist­ing pe­ti­tion which has al­ready il­lus­trated the strength of feel­ing on the wider issue.

EFL chief ex­ec­u­tive Shaun Har­vey said: “We un­der­stand why the issue of stand­ing at foot­ball matches is sen­si­tive. The safety of all fans is of para­mount im­por­tance to ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing Gov­ern­ment, and they are rightly con­cerned about any change that could in­crease the safety risk

and then see them ac­count­able for this.

“We recognise that to ef­fect change we will need a part­ner­ship ap­proach and this will com­mence with our sur­vey to demon­strate that those who at­tend fix­tures want to see the change and be of­fered a choice, even if they still choose to be seated. Our clubs and their fans should be part of the so­lu­tion.”

So­lu­tion

Har­vey con­tin­ued: “The EFL would like to see cur­rent leg­is­la­tion re­viewed by the Gov­ern­ment and ul­ti­mately amended so that clubs have the op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide stand­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion to their sup­port­ers at all matches played in the Cham­pi­onship, League One and League Two, should they wish to.

“There are 21 EFL clubs across our three di­vi­sions that cur­rently of­fer li­censed stand­ing ar­eas to sup­port­ers and it is un­clear to us how such ar­eas would be any less safe if op­er­ated on an iden­ti­cal ba­sis at other clubs play­ing in the same com­pe­ti­tions.

“Nor is the logic clear to us why clubs can of­fer stand­ing in League One and League BACK­ING: Shaun Har­vey Two but not to the same fans, in the same stands, at the same grounds af­ter three years of play­ing in the Cham­pi­onship or above. If stand­ing ar­eas are li­censed as be­ing safe, they don’t be­come any less safe just be­cause the stan­dard of foot­ball be­ing played on the pitch is dif­fer­ent.

“By sur­vey­ing fans, we will be in a po­si­tion to pro­vide Gov­ern­ment with a clear in­di­ca­tion of the strength of feel­ing amongst those sup­port­ers who at­tend EFL matches ev­ery sea­son.”

Peter Daykin, stand­ing co­or­di­na­tor at the Foot­ball Sup­port­ers' Fed­er­a­tion, said: "Eigh­teen mil­lions fans make their way to EFL games ev­ery sea­son and the Cham­pi­onship is the third most at­tended league in Europe – theirs is a voice of ex­pe­ri­ence which must be lis­tened to within this de­bate.

“It's great to have such an im­por­tant foot­ball in­sti­tu­tion en­gage so pos­i­tively with the cam­paign, work­ing hand-in­hand with fans to make the case for stand­ing at foot­ball."

Mean­while, Har­vey has given a cau­tious wel­come to the news that Wem­b­ley could be sold to Amer­i­can bil­lion­aire and Ful­ham owner Shahid Khan for £600m, with the money be­ing ploughed into grass­roots foot­ball across the coun­try.

Grass­roots

Har­vey told BBC Ra­dio 4 that he has been as­sured by the FA that the EFL’s “five fi­nals” – the Carabao Cup, Check­a­trade Tro­phy and three di­vi­sional play­offs – would still be played at Wem­b­ley “re­gard­less of the own­er­ship”.

On whether sell­ing the sta­dium was a good idea, he added: “On pa­per, the num­bers ap­pear to work out but the devil is al­ways in the de­tail. I’m sure the longer de­bate will not be on whether to ac­cept the deal but on how to spend the money.”

The stand­ing sur­vey can be ac­cessed on­line via: www.efl.com/standup­for­choice and EFL so­cial me­dia chan­nels.

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

UN­DER DIS­CUS­SION: Wem­b­ley could be sold to Ful­ham owner Shahid Khan

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