Ed Balls puts Norwich City at the forefront as he calls for safe standing on BBC’s Watchdog
PUBLISHED: 11:14 23 May 2018 | UPDATED: 15:30 23 May 2018
Norwich City chairman Ed Balls has gone national in his efforts to see safe standing introduced to football grounds.
The former government minister stars tonight in a special episode of the BBC’s Watchdog Live, telling the programme that he could remember the atmosphere of standing at Carrow Road when he went as a child.
Speaking ahead of the programme, Mr Balls told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “I do think the government is willing to listen to the views of fans because the choice 20 years on from the Taylor report after the Hillsborough inquiry is not between sitting and standing; the choice is between safe standing with rails compared to what we see at clubs up and down the country, standing between seats, sometimes with children standing on seats - that’s not safe. We can do better.”
Standing areas in the top two divisions were banned in 1989 after 96 Liverpool fans died in the Hillsborough disaster.
The programme airs ahead of a Parliament debate that takes place on June 25 on whether safe standing areas should be reintroduced. It was triggered by a petition with more than 100,000 signatures.
Ever since Mr Balls became chairman of Norwich City in 2015 he has been campaigning for safe standing areas but he wants to hear both sides.
He continued: “At Norwich we have looked hard at this issue. We have one small section of the ground where there is persistent standing from enthusiastic fans and we talked to the local authorities and we have support from three local MPs, Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem who have written to the home secretary saying they are persuaded by our argument that for that area of the ground safe standing would be a step forward.”
A survey conducted on this paper’s website last year found that 74pc of 3,600 City fans were in favour of safe standing.
Although it is not illegal to stand, people can be removed from the ground if they refuse to sit. Celtic brought back a standing area in 2016 while in Germany it is commonplace.