Fans given their say as EFL and supporters group launch poll over 'safe-standing'

'Safe standing' rail seats have been installed at Celtic Park
'Safe standing' rail seats have been installed at Celtic Park
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The English Football League and the Football Supporters' Federation are urging fans to "stand up for choice" by taking part in an online safe-standing survey.

The English Football League and the Football Supporters' Federation are urging fans to "stand up for choice" by taking part in an online safe-standing survey.

From Friday morning until May 10, fans will be encouraged to answer three questions on whether clubs should be allowed to offer a standing option, what they would prefer to do if the choice was available and what impact a standing option would have on their attendance of games.

The EFL and FSF hope that the results, which will be publicised by the league's 72 clubs over the next two weeks, will inform the current debate on English football's all-seater requirement in the top two tiers.

That debate appears to be heading to Westminster already after a petition on the UK Parliament website reached 100,000 signatures on Wednesday, with 95,000 of those coming since it emerged a fortnight ago that sports minister Tracey Crouch had rejected an application from West Brom to trial safe standing at The Hawthorns.

Crouch's decision disappointed many in football, including the EFL, FSF and the Football Safety Officers Association (FSOA), who represent the people with the impossible task of trying to enforce the current rules every week in grounds up and down the country.

Her stance became even more isolated a day later when she told Press Association Sport only a "vocal minority" want to change the status quo.

In an attempt to support her position, which was heavily criticised on social media, the Premier League released the results of its own fans survey - conducted by the polling company Populus in three tranches over the last 18 months - which showed only one in 20 want to stand for the entire game but a majority would like the choice.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, FSF chief executive Kevin Miles said previous surveys had found the numbers to be more like one in 10 who want to stand throughout but nearly nine out of 10 who believe the all-seater requirement should be scrapped.

"But even if it is just one in 20, the current rule is a disproportionate response," said Miles.

"Only a minority of people are vegans but you don't ban cheese pasties."

Miles added that said the FSF enjoyed a good relationship with Crouch, who he described as fine sports minister, but "she has got this wrong".

EFL boss Shaun Harvey agrees, as his leaked letters to the minister have made clear, but he acknowledged that Crouch is in a difficult position, which is why football should come together to share the responsibility for scrapping a rule that was introduced to prevent another Hillsborough disaster from happening again.

"I have a lot of sympathy for the minister because she has the burden of being the person who would sign off this change," said Harvey.

"If it goes to plan, it's forgotten about, that. If it doesn't, well, it's their fault. That is why this has to be a collective decision."

On Hillsborough, Miles said the FSF had not previously campaigned for safe standing, despite many calls from members to do so, out of respect for the victims and their families but now it has been firmly established that standing did not cause the disaster the situation has changed.

That said, the EFL has consulted the Hillsborough Family Support Group, Hillsborough Justice Campaign and Liverpool fans' group the Spirit of Shankly about its online poll.

Harvey added that his clubs gave him a clear mandate in 2014 to push for permission to trial safe-standing sections, be it properly risk-assessed standing in seated sections, the Bundesliga-style rail seats that have been successfully piloted by Celtic or some other option.

He also pointed out that next season's Championship could, in theory, feature Burton, who are allowed to have a standing section because of the three-year grace period clubs promoted from the lower divisions get, Shrewsbury and their rail-seating trial and West Brom, who have been denied the right to trial rail seats.

The survey can be accessed online via: https://www.efl.com/standupforchoice and EFL social media channels.