‘West Ham fans deserve safe standing’

Chris Wheal reveals the results of a recent West Ham United Supporters' Trust survey

Nine out of 10 West Ham fans support safe standing at the London Stadium, with the Bobby Moore lower and the Sir Trevor Brooking stands being the preferred locations. That is the categoric result of a fan survey conducted by the West Ham United Supporters’ Trust (WHUST).

More than 80% of fans strongly support safe standing and a further 10% somewhat support it. Asked how important introducing safe standing was, the average response was nine out of 10, making it a top priority.

Favourite locations were the Bobby Moore lower (the home end) with more than 90% support, followed by the Sir Trevor Brooking lower (where a proportion is reserved for away fans) with nearly 70%. The Billy Bonds lower had 36% support and the West Stand lower 29%.

Asked if fans would move to a safe standing location, a third said they definitely would, 11% probably would and 28% said they would if they could be sure to move with friends and family.

Sensible solution

WHUST chair, Sue Watson said: ‘Watching West Ham is too exciting to stay in your seat. Standing has been shown to be safe. 

‘A sensible solution allows those who prefer to be seated, or who cannot stand, to have clear lines of sight but makes standing safely available to those who want it. Safe standing cannot come too soon to the London Stadium.’

The WHUST survey of Hammers fans follows the announcement in early July from sports minister Nigel Huddleston that clubs can introduce safe standing. The evidence collected from trials at Cardiff City, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur  found controlled standing was safer than the current arrangement where fans stand in among seating.

An interim report into the trial, published by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) in April, found that goal celebrations are more orderly with no opportunity for forwards and backwards movement of fans, reduces the risk of fans falling on those around them, and barriers offer stability for people moving up and down aisles and gangways.

Uniform exit

It also found that latecomers are able to access their seats in the middle of rows more quickly, as others are already standing and have barriers to lean against to allow them to pass, and pockets of overcrowding are easier to identify to security officials, as fans are lined up more clearly

The final report concluded that the exit of fans from the stadia is more uniform because the barriers limit spectators’ ability to climb over seats to exit more quickly, and spectators are lined up more clearly and therefore any risk of overcrowding can be identified, particularly using CCTV;

It also concluded that stewards can be put in more locations without risking impacting sight lines, and that there is no evidence to date that the introduction of licensed standing areas has led to an increase in standing elsewhere in stadia.

WHUST raised this survey with the club through the official fan umbrella body the Independents Supporters’ Committee (ISC), which met the club on 24 April.

The club have committed to working with ISC/Trust and all stakeholders to have safe standing in place for the 2023/24 season. A meeting will be arranged between LS185 (the stadium owners), the club, WHUST and the rest of the ISC to start this process off.

Newham council’s Stadium Safety Advisory Group Meeting in April had confirmed that the rail seating in the upper tier was proving effective as a safety feature.  The outcomes from the trust survey as well as ongoing work will feed into the stakeholders planning as we move this exciting development forward.

Individual comments from West Ham fans in the WHUST survey included several comments flagging up the following issues:

  • Fans who do not want to stand — elderly, young, short, disabled — support safe standing for others, but believe standing should be more effectively policed in seating areas and seated fans must have clear lines of sight over the heads of, beside or in front of standing fans.
  • People stand anyway, always have and always will, so making certain areas standing makes sense.
  • Widespread criticism that the UK is way behind Europe on safe standing and clubs with standing have a better atmosphere.
  • The proportion of safe standing supported varied from 50% of all seats, in all the lower tier stands, or a focus on the lower tier stands at both ends.
  • Standing would improve the atmosphere.  
  • It would be good if there were standing options across multiple season ticket bands, so more people had the opportunity to afford a standing season ticket.
  • There was slight concern about access (to the toilet for example) especially past larger supporters — though it was accepted this was already a problem in seated areas.

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