Local Liberal Democrats took part in a debate at their national conference in Bournemouth discussing the introduction of safe standing areas at football matches. The motion was proposed by the MEP for our region, Sharon Bowles and Katesgrove councillor Warren Swaine was selected to speak in favour of it.
In a clear vote in favour of the motion, the Liberal Democrats’ Autumn conference backed proposals to change regulations that currently prevent football stadiums from providing ‘safe-standing’ area at Premier League and Championship games. The proposals recognise and seek to remedy safety problems that exist in all-seater stadiums where, despite regulations, large numbers of fans regularly stand in areas designed for sitting only.
Local councillor and football fanzine editor Warren Swaine told the conference that there was nothing in itself unsafe about standing and urged them to back the motion to allow clubs the choice to reintroduce limited capacity standing areas. Of particular concern to him was the effect that all-seater stadia have had on families and young children attending matches. Councillor Swaine told the conference: “It is sometimes cheaper to fly a family of four to the Costa del Sol than to go to a match.”
He also told the BBC’s Politics Show: “People don’t like being controlled and it causes a lot of trouble and resentment at football matches.”
Liberal Democrat Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Don 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 regulations 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.
“Football has taken enormous steps forward in recent years with more diverse fans, improved stadium designs and better policing. These proposals would in no way seek to undermine any of that progress and would only allow future ground developments that meet the most stringent safety requirements.
“But if some fans want to stand and clubs want to let them, then we should at least explore safe ways of achieving it.”
- Warren Swaine is a local councillor for Katesgrove ward and has been regularly attending Arsenal matches since 1988. He bought a terrace season ticket for the old North Bank in 1990 and has been a season ticket holder ever since.
He has written for ‘The Gooner’, Arsenal’s largest selling fanzine for the last 18 years and started his own satirical football fanzine ‘Up The Arse!’ in 1992.
He has never been tempted to change allegiance because it would be politically expedient to do so.
- The full text of the motion is copied below:
Conference notes that:
A. Since 1994 all football clubs in the Premiership and the Football League Championship have been required to provide all-seater accommodation.
B. Model ground regulations recommended by the Premier and Football Leagues stipulate that standing in seated areas should be forbidden.
C. A sizeable minority of supporters who wish to watch football whilst standing continue to stand in seated areas.
D. Spectators standing in seated areas can create a number of hazards particularly for those seated around them.
Conference in particular notes that:
i) Standing in seating areas, and efforts to enforce the ban on it, is a significant cause of conflict between supporters, their clubs and the authorities.
ii) Safe standing areas operate safely and successfully at many European grounds, notably in Germany.
iii) Where customers have the choice to purchase tickets in either ‘sitting’ or ‘standing’ areas, the problem of seated spectators finding their views blocked by people standing is largely eliminated.
iv) Outside the top two divisions of English league football safe standing areas are permitted.
v) There is no recent evidence to suggest that standing spectators are any less safe at football matches than those who are seated.
Conference believes that the introduction of safe standing areas would:
a) Be extremely popular with supporters, both those who prefer to stand and those who (for whatever reasons including health or disability) prefer to sit.
b) Provide choice and promote social inclusion in the national game.
c) Positively assist the relationship between supporters and stewards by removing this area of potential conflict.
d) Most importantly, be safe.
Conference therefore calls upon the Government to:
1. Replace any regulations requiring spectators to be seated with new regulations clearly setting out standards under which a safe standing area may be licensed.
2. Direct the Football Licensing Authority to prepare suitable guidance under which domestic football clubs, working with their supporters, may introduce safe standing areas.
Cllr Daisy Benson, Lib Dem Safer Communities Spokesperson on Reading Borough Council took her campaign highlighting the poor response of Thames Valley Police’s anti-social behaviour hotline to the Lib Dems Annual Conference this week where she highlighted problems with Thames Valley Police’s anti-social behaviour hotline
Speaking in a debate on new Lib Dem crime reduction and policing policy on Sunday, Cllr Daisy Benson said:
“In order for Neighbourhood Policing to work as it was intended, local people must have confidence that they are being listened to and that the Police are acting on the real crime issues people are encountering locally.
“In Reading, local people who report crimes are struggling sometimes even to have their calls answered, and whey they are, operatives do not know the area because they are based in an out-of-town call centre and lack local knowledge.”
“This experience is putting many people in Reading off reporting crime and the lack of feedback from Police when they do report makes them wonder if there is any point in reporting issues”
Cllr Daisy Benson will also be highlighting these problems with Police chiefs at a meeting of the Safer Reading Campaign at the end of September.
Cllr Daisy Benson said:
“Local people will stop reporting crime if they feel they are not being listened to. Thames Valley Police must act now to improve their service to local residents in Reading, if Neighbourhood Policing is going to be effective in tackling crime in our local communities.’
- Daisy spoke in a policy debate on “cutting crime and catching criminals” which aims to bring in policies to make the Police more accountable and more in touch with local people’s priorities. More details can be found here
- More details on Daisy’s campaign can be found here:
- As part of her campaign, Daisy raised problems with call centre response to calls from members of the public earlier in the year with Members of the Home Affairs Select Committee, and in July at a meeting of the Safer Reading Campaign.
- More info on theThames Valley Police hotline can be found here.
Reading East’s Liberal Democrat Parliamentary campaigner, Cllr Gareth Epps, has put Reading’s police funding shortages onto the agenda of the Liberal Democrats’ Party Conference for a key debate on crime on Sunday 14th September.
Gareth submitted an amendment on behalf of Reading Liberal Democrats to call for a reassessment of the way Central Government funds Thames Valley Police, in order to tackle longstanding difficulties of police recruitment and retention, and fund the Neighbourhood Policing programme to the extent it is funded in London. The amendment has been accepted into the motion by the movers, and will almost certainly become Liberal Democrat policy.
More than 10 Liberal Democrats from Reading will be attending the Conference at Bournemouth, which runs from today to Wednesday 17 September. They will be attending and speaking into debates as well as fringe meetings and training.
Commenting, Gareth says:-
‘It’s great to be going to the seaside with such a big group of Liberal Democrats – we think it’s the biggest group we’ve ever taken. It just shows how the party locally is going from strength to strength.
‘I’m delighted our amendment has been taken, so we can highlight the very real funding issues faced by Reading police today.’
Lib Dems in Reading have slammed the rescue package for at-risk homeowners as offering nothing for Reading residents struggling to make mortgage repayments – and have said it could make things worse for local people.
Patrick Murray, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary campaigner for Reading West, commented:
“These measures are quite deeply irresponsible. Encouraging first-time buyers at a time when house prices are still falling risks plunging people into negative equity. Not that many people in Reading will benefit from the proposals on stamp duty – very few properties in Reading cost under £175,000, and the changes will have no effect at all on other housebuyers because of the way stamp duty works.”
Cllr Gareth Epps, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary campaigner for Reading East, commented:
“Gordon Brown and the Labour Party have again shown how deeply out of touch they are. The first priority has got to be to take measures to stop the rising ride of mortgage repossessions, which we have revealed are going up in Reading. Other measures include examining a windfall tax on utilities companies, and reforming Stamp Duty to abolish the ‘slab structure’. This would make a difference to the housing market.”
Katesgrove’s Liberal Democrat Councillors have organised a public meeting this Thursday (4 September, 7.30pm in the Conference Room at RISC) as controversy rises about Tesco’s plans to open an Express store at Crown House, on the corner of Crown Street.
Residents and local businesses have been in touch with Gareth and Warren expressing numerous concerns, including:-
- Parking concerns as Crown House has virtually no nearby parking for deliveries or shoppers
- Anger at Tesco’s plans to increase their monopoly in retail in Reading
- Concerns about their record on licensing and socially responsible busines
Tesco has applied for an alcohol premises license for Crown House, the former location of the popular Fun ‘n’ Frolic fancy dress store, and local councillors understand that planning applications are imminent from Tesco, although the use of the premises for retail already has planning permission.
Commenting, Cllr Gareth Epps says:-
‘We have had a lot of feedback from residents and others about this issue. Most local people are not happy that Tesco are seeking to open yet another store in Reading so close to local retailers.
‘I would urge local residents and others with a view to come to the meeting and make their voices heard.’