John Darch of the Safe Standing Campaign Group looks at the possibility of safe standing at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Cardiff City are pioneers of safe standing. The club was the first in the UK to draw up a crowd management plan to enable fans to stand safely in an all-seater ground. That was in 2012 and for the last eight years, as you know, the Canton Stand has been operated as a de-facto standing area. Now a new chapter is about to begin.
Back in 2012, changing how such areas are managed was all that clubs could do to make standing fans safer. Since November 2018, they have also been able to enhance safety in areas of persistent standing by fitting rail seats or independent barriers behind existing seats.
The first clubs subject to the all-seater policy to do this were Spurs and Wolves. Recently Manchester United announced their intention to follow suit. Despite being able to make these structural changes, clubs are still not allowed to officially operate the areas concerned as standing.
Thatis set to change. The Westminster government is now committed to working “with fans and clubs to introduce safe standing” and this month will receive an important report from the Sports Ground Safety Authority.
In January the authority stated that rail seats have a “positive impact on spectator safety” and assuming that their final report confirms this, many observers believe that this will give ministers in London the evidence they need to change the legislation. As No. 10 may well feel that announcing safe standing would go down well with voters, it could then happen very quickly.
Once areas such as the Canton Stand can be operated as official standing, new rules are likely to apply, i.e. the rules for standing areas, not for seated areas where fans happen to stand. This could mean a requirement for rail seats (or independent barriers), a requirement that seats in any standing area are “non-climbable” (as all structures on a terrace must be) and potentially that the seats must be locked upright to prevent fans standing on them and getting hurt if they fall off.
So the end of the standing ban is in sight. For all fans of clubs with all-seater grounds that has to be good news.
For pioneering Cardiff City it may also mean a bit of a rethink in the Canton Stand, as it changes from an area of seating where fans stand to an area of standing governed by the safety regulations that will then apply.