THE ISSUE AT HAND
For those unaware, there have recently been a number of match bans issued to some supporters in the Lower Tier of the North Stand (Longside). The reason given was persistent standing during recent games, with fans first given a warning and subsequently handed multi-game bans for a failure to comply. First off, the Clarets Trust sympathises with any supporters impacted by the disciplinary measures imposed by the club.
We, as much as anyone, understand that every single person who goes on the Turf is a dedicated and valuable fan of our great club. It is a terrible shame for any of these loyal fans to be turned away from the Turf and as such, we have recently sought guidance on the matter.
SEEKING GUIDANCE FROM THE SAFE STANDING ROADSHOW
In the past day we have been in contact with Jon Darch of the Bristol City Supporters Trust and the Safe Standing Roadshow, a campaign group promoting the introduction of safe standing in English football. The Safe Standing Roadshow has worked closely with the Clarets Trust and the Football Supporters’ Association in the past, including a campaign that resulted in Burnley Football Club giving their support to the trials of safe standing areas around the country.
That was in the days of Lee Hoos, when a visit to Turf Moor between the Trust and the Safe Standing Roadshow encouraged Burnley FC to back the FSA campaign that pushed the government to take a serious look at reintroducing safe standing. That was then, this is now.
ACKNOWLEDGING YESTERDAY’S STATEMENT FROM BURNLEY FC
The Clarets Trust recognises the statement issued yesterday by Burnley Football Club that clarified their position on the issue of persistent standing. Fans have been understandably upset in the past week and the viral pictures of covered up seats at Turf Moor has been an difficult episode for the club. Burnley FC’s statement yesterday explained that the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) have threatened to close areas of Turf Moor should persistent standing continue and that as a result, they have had to take action to stop this from happening.
We are grateful to all the fans who have approached us with their views in the past couple of days, with many expressing their frustration with the club’s statement. The Clarets Trust understands that many supporters are questioning the validity of the club’s statement and pondering, why is it Burnley that the SGSA are targeting? After consultation with the Safe Standing Roadshow, we are hopefully able to provide a little bit of further context to the situation.
The ‘early adopter’ scheme of safe standing in the English game was deemed a success and as a result, the law was changed on 25th July to permit football grounds in England to have licensed standing accommodation. Burnley – and all the other clubs subject to the old all-seater policy – can now create safe standing areas. We believe this is why the SGSA are now clamping down on clubs that have not done so – such as Burnley – and therefore have an ‘issue’ with persistent standing.
In the past, the SGSA have been lenient because they recognised that clubs were not allowed to create safe standing areas, but now that this is a viable option, they are expecting clubs to implement safe standing facilities and in turn, they will no longer take a lenient approach to persistent standing in ‘seated’ areas of the ground. The stance of the SGSA now appears to be, Burnley FC either implement safe standing facilities, or they strictly enforce the rules against persistent standing – otherwise certain areas of the ground will be closed due to safety issues.
SO, WHAT NOW?
So far, Burnley FC have made the decision to clamp down on supporters who are falling foul of persistent standing in an area of the ground where this is deemed ‘unsafe’ by the SGSA. The position of the Clarets Trust is that the club should instead look to move with the times and introduce safe standing facilities at Turf Moor. This would alleviate concerns of the SGSA cutting capacity in certain areas of the ground and allow fans the opportunity to enjoy football whilst stood up. The current path is only going to see the relations between the fans and Burnley FC worsen and should a certain part of the ground be closed to fans, it may well cost Burnley FC more in the long run than the cost of installing railed seating (safe standing) at Turf Moor.
The best way to solve this issue and campaign for safe standing at Turf Moor is to open a line of communication with Burnley FC on the matter. We support the introduction of safe standing at Turf Moor and will continue to work closely with both the Football Supporters’ Association and the Safe Standing Roadshow on this campaign. Shortly, the Clarets Trust intends to open a members-only Facebook group, where a working group can be established to report back with either recommendations or a conclusion on the issue. For anyone considering joining the Trust, we welcome all the help we can get as we campaign and work closely with Burnley FC to create a better club for all.