Lib Dems back standing at grounds

A STANDING area could be brought back to Portman Road if the Liberal Democrats get their way.Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans is a devoted Lib Dem backer who has donated more than £1m to the party and could be among the first people to make the changes if safe standing is reintroduced to football grounds.

Derek Davis

A STANDING area could be brought back to Portman Road if the Liberal Democrats get their way.

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans is a devoted Lib Dem backer who has donated more than £1m to the party and could be among the first people to make the changes if safe standing is reintroduced to football grounds.

The matter will be discussed at the Lib Dem Annual Conference in Bournemouth tomorrow when it is understood Shadow Culture, Media, and Sport Secretary Don Foster will vote in favour of safe standing.

Colchester MP Bob Russell is among those who have introduced Early Day Motions into Parliament backing safe standing.

Although Evans declined to comment last night, if, as looks likely, the Liberal Democrats vote to make the motion into policy, the safe standing issue will become a major one as campaigning for the next election gathers pace, and the Blues owner could well want to show his support.

Most Read

Surveys among football fans have demonstrated nine out of 10 support safe standing, while a 2007 report by the Independent Football Commission (IFC) concluded the introduction would save public money as less policing would be required in standing areas.

The Football Supporters Federation (FSF) insist there is no recent evidence to suggest that standing is anymore dangerous than sitting, while the IFC even suggested health & safety figures would improve with safe standing areas

Foster said: “This is a sensitive issue. But we cannot ignore the large numbers of fans who want to stand, and are doing so in seating areas, despite the existing regulations and the danger it causes.

“Given the seeming impossibility of policing existing regulation and recognising that some passionate fans want to be able to jump up and down when watching their teams each week then we need to look at technologies that allow them to do that safely.

“If some fans want to stand and clubs want to let them, then we should at least explore safe ways of achieving it.”

The FSF has long campaigned on the issue of safe standing, alongside Stand Up, Sit Down, and backs the Eurostand 2008 campaign which runs this weekend and will see fans from more than 14 different countries uniting to demand the right for fans to stand

Malcolm Clarke, chair of the FSF, said: “The FSF congratulate the Liberal Democrats' decision to debate safe standing and would encourage all political parties to follow suit. We welcome the increased momentum that this brings to the issue and it's very encouraging to see a mainstream political party onside.

“We would strongly urge all Liberal Democrats to vote for safe standing at their Annual Conference. Give fans the choice.”

The last time fans were able to stand at matches at Portman Road was in 1992 when the ground was made all-seater following the Taylor Report.