Town fans have rounded on Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman for opposing calls to introduce “safe standing” at the John Smith’s Stadium.
While fellow Labour MPs Thelma Walker and Paula Sherriff have backed a supporters’ campaign for safe standing at the ground, Mr Sheerman said he was unable to support it – prompting a number of heated responses.
Taking to Twitter, Mr Sheerman said: “I’m sorry, we fought to get safe, secure football stadiums where families could feel welcome. I will not support standing given the tragedies that we have seen!”
But fans said the veteran MP was out of touch.
One tweeted: “It’s MORE dangerous to have people standing in seating areas which is what happens now.”
Another commented: “The thing is safe standing is so we include everyone. I go to matches with my children where I would always choose family friendly all seated but it helps with atmosphere without a doubt and I’d choose safe standing so it was controlled if I was on my own or with friends.”
A third posted: “It’s called safe standing for a reason. Think about it before you dismiss it.”
Another suggested Mr Sheerman watch a Town match to see for himself, adding: “Time’s moved on Barry. You’re firmly stuck in the 80s.”
The 1989 Football Spectators Act required that football stadia in the top two divisions in England should be all-seater.
The Taylor Report, published in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster, recommended all major stadiums convert to all-seater – but blamed overcrowding, policing and the stadium layout for the incident and said standing at matches was not intrinsically unsafe.
Jim Chisem, of Huddersfield Town Supporters Association (HTSA) and the Stand Up for Town organisastion, said he welcomed the support of Colne Valley MP Mrs Walker and Dewsbury MP Ms Sherriff – along with a number of Kirklees councillors and Kirklees Liberal Democrats.
He added: “We would, of course, be happy to meet with Mr Sheerman to discuss our campaign objectives. It seems that he has several misconceptions about safe standing — including some regarding his own role in the passage of the Football Spectators Act of 1989 – but we’d be happy to update him on the current state of the debate.”
Mr Chisem argued that providing safe standing would provide more choice for spectators, enhance the matchday experience and atmosphere and improve the general level of safety in stadia.
Lindley Lib Dem Clr Cahal Burke, who regularly attends matches at the stadium, said: “It’s about time that more football clubs in the country were allowed to introduce safe standing areas, but only where there is support from their fans to do so.
“I don’t think there is strong evidence that standing is inherently unsafe, and actually, forcing supporters to sit can create conflict between fans and authorities.
“I think there would be a lot of benefits in introducing safe standing areas. It would offer fans more choice, and it could result in more affordable tickets. For example, at football matches in Germany, fans typically might pay £12 to sit at matches, but only £6 to stand.
“The change could also result in fans feeling more involved in the game. It’s been argued that standing areas generate more noise and could result in a better matchday atmosphere and experience. We have the technology to ensure safe standing areas, so practically, it’s viable.”
Last September, Town became the first Premier League club to poll supporters on the issue of safe standing – although the club stressed that safe standing would not be possible without government legislation. HTSA’s own survey last April showed 96% support for an area of rail-seating at the John Smith’s Stadium.
The Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF), which is campaigning for safe standing areas in English stadia, favours rail seats, which incorporate a safety barrier and flip-down seat on every other row or step. The seats can be locked in an upright position, allowing two rows of supporters to stand in between barriers. It means supporters can be allocated a designated “seat” and still stand during a game.