Following the news that Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward declared his support to safe standing came an outcry from the families of the Hillsborough disaster victims urging Premier League clubs to reject proposals for the campaign to be introduced.
On February 7, United held a fans’ forum where Woodward was pressed on a number of issues by supporters including safe standing. According to the Daily Mail he went on record to pledge the club’s backing for the introduction of a safe standing area at Old Trafford. A teenage section was also discussed following a petition set up by Republik of Mancunia with plans to put it alongside the singing section, if permanently implemented next season following several trials.
Chair of the Hillsborough Families Support Group, Margaret Aspinall, has since sent letters to all Premier League clubs, along with Prime Minister David Cameron, with a personal plea to reject the idea of safe-standing areas in football grounds. Mrs Aspinall who sadly lost her son James in the tragedy, told the Mail:
“What people have got to remember is that this is not just me or the president, it is everybody within our group. We are all opposed to the idea of standing again.
“I went to Bristol the other day with Trevor Hicks (who lost two daughters at Hillsborough) and I went with an open mind to see how things would work. But after I saw what was being suggested, I really didn’t like the look of it and I told them straight.
“I have never said standing caused (the disaster). They (South Yorkshire Police) opened the gates to the terraces — they didn’t open the gates to the stands, did they?
“I don’t ever want to see standing brought back and I don’t ever want to think something so terrible might happen again. This is about the welfare of all football supporters.”
Regardless of the rivalry between the two clubs, it goes without saying that should not involve moronic distasteful songs about Hillsborough. Football rivalry doesn’t come into this at all unless you’re an imbecile. Here we are talking about little kids that never returned home to their parents, like James Aspinall, and vice versa. Personally, I feel there’s something wrong with you if you use the deaths of Liverpool fans or Manchester United players as a way of scoring brownie points. That’s not what football is about.
While I have made that point clear, I don’t think Margaret Aspinall puts up a very strong argument. Standing did not cause Hillsborough to happen, so why are they so opposed to the idea?
Not only have we not seen safe standing at football grounds in England before but we see it at pop concerts without any complaints or disasters. So again, I ask why? If monitored properly and there’s emphasis put on SAFE standing there won’t be any doubts over the welfare of fans.
The Football Supporters’ Federation has spearheaded the campaign for ‘rail seating’ to be implemented at all-seater grounds. This is what can be seen in Germany.
For rail seating to be implemented this way, it would involve seats being installed within protective rails at the back of a given row, allowing spectators the choice to either sit or stand. Bundeliga clubs’ seats are put up for league matches but lowered for European competitions.
In the Premier League, clubs such as Hull City, Aston Villa and Swansea have pledged their support towards safe standing.