Councillor urges Government to change the law to make safe standing at Sunderland AFC a reality

Government ban on safe standing in the Championship and Premiership is a barrier to SAFC introducing safe standing says one councillor on Wearside who wants the law to be changed.

Grindon and Thorney Close Lib Dem councillor Stephen O'Brien is calling on the Government to allow safe standing 'rail seating' which allows fans to stand on a terrace, but with each row separated by a rail to prevent crowd surges.

The system operates in football stadiums in Europe and Scotland, as well as other sports in England. SAFC’s Executive Director Charlie Methven announced recently he was exploring the possibility of introducing a safe standing area at the Stadium of Light.

If it was introduced, it may have to be removed in future years if the club were promoted to the Championship and Premiership – as safe standing is banned for clubs in the top two tiers of English football.

Longstanding campaigner for safe standing Councillor Stephen O’Brien wants the Government to change the law to lift this ban, which he thinks would make safe standing at Sunderland a more realistic prospect.

He’s written to the Government’s Sports Minister Mims Davies MP to ask her to change the law.

Sunderland season ticket holder and Lib Dem councillor for Grindon and Thorney Close Stephen O’Brien said: “It’s encouraging to see supporters and senior figures at the club backing the long-running campaign for safe standing at the Stadium of Light.

“Safe standing offers supporters more choice, a better atmosphere and cheaper tickets. Crucially, it is not a return to the terraces of the 1980s. Rail seat has proper stewarding and safety mechanisms in place to protect fans. In fact it would be better than the current situation where people stand up anyway in seated areas that aren’t properly designed for it.

“However, the big hurdle to SAFC or any other club in the Championship introducing safe standing is what happens if - as I hope will occur - we get promoted back to the Championship next season and the safe standing area has to be closed due to the Government ban.

"Clubs that have listened to fans and introduced safe standing should not be penalised if they get promoted. That’s why the Liberal Democrats want the Government to move the goalposts on safe standing and change the law to allow it in the Championship and Premiership.”