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Safe standing: Football League chief Shaun Harvey will urge government to rethink stance

By Matt Wilson | West Bromwich Albion | Published:

Football League chief Shaun Harvey has thrown his weight behind the campaign for safe standing after the government rejected Albion’s application to introduce it at The Hawthorns.

EFL chief executive Shaun Harvey

The Baggies had an application to install a 3,600-capacity railed seating area at the back of the Smethwick End rejected by sports minister Tracey Crouch last week.

The government currently have no plans to change the law introduced following the Hillsborough disaster that states all clubs in the top two tiers of English football must have all-seater stadia.

But Harvey has told the 72 clubs in the EFL that he will urge them to reconsider.

In a letter to all league clubs, Harvey wrote: “I can assure you that we do not consider the comments made this week to be the last word on the matter.

“We will continue to engage robustly with government and other relevant stakeholders in order to achieve the changes to the all-seater policy that our clubs seek.

“The government should not underestimate how popular a change in approach would be with the football-supporting element of the electorate.”

Albion wrote back to the Sports Grounds Safety Authority last week and urged them to review the decision.

They did not expect the government to alter their stance but Harvey’s plan to campaign in favour of a change could be a huge boost to their case.

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Despite their remarkable win over Manchester United on Sunday, the Baggies are likely to be in the Championship next season.

Championship club Brentford are currently allowed to have a terraced area at Griffin Park because they have planning permission for a new stadium at nearby Lionel Road.

All other clubs in that division must have all-seater stadium.

In League One, Shrewsbury Town have permission to install a safe standing area but if they win promotion to the Championship this season they will not be allowed to.

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The government’s decision last week was met with plenty of criticism from supporter groups while the Baggies described it as ‘short-sighted’.

Operations director Mark Miles told the Express & Star that introducing railed seating in the Smethwick End would be safer than normal seats because fans stand up in that part of the stadium already.

An online petition to allow Premier League and Championship clubs to introduce safe standing has received more than 58,000 signatures. If it tops 100,000, it will be discussed in Parliament.

Matt Wilson

By Matt Wilson
Football MMPJ - @mattwilson_star

Sports reporter at the Express & Star, who primarily covers West Bromwich Albion.

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