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Standing orders A new book looks at the arguments around the safety of terracing at football and takes the case to the authorities

By ROGER TITFORD

cluded that the practice had not adversely af fected the Taylor inquiry, or any other proceedings. The prosecuting authorities must decide whether there is suff icient evidence to charge anybody with offences such as perverting the course of justice or misconduct in a public of f ice. Any prosecution of police of f icers is unlikely to be straightforward because the “review and alteration” of witness statements followed legal advice and happened many years ago.

Should there be a new public enquiry? These are designed to identify the causes of a major incident and recommend improvements. The Taylor Report blamed the Hillsborough disaster on policing failures. Taylor recommended sweeping changes to crowd control and safety at football matches and his report led to the introduction of all-seat stadiums at clubs in the top divisions of English football. However, it is clear that Taylor did not get to the bottom of what really happened on the day of the tragedy and in the immediate aftermath.

The government has the power to commission a new public enquiry. Whether it will have the stomach for another high-prof ile enquiry after the Leveson media circus remains to be seen.

Nick McAleenan is a Media Lawyer at JMW Solicitors LLP

One of the major consequences of the Hillsborough disaster was the transformation of British football stadiums into all-seaters. As Peter Caton points out in Stand Up S it Down, it is an incomplete process – 23 of the 92 English League grounds still have a terrace – and an improperly observed regulation with most grounds witnessing some persistent standing in seated areas. Caton offers an exhausting account of the campaign to bring in “safe standing” areas and/or to relax the seemingly unenforceable directive against persistent standing.

He and his associates have been taking on the political and football authorit ies for many years. In Stand Up Sit Down Caton plays the part of the rational citizen doing everything by the book. He presents a strong, evidence-based case that exposes inconsistencies in the authorities’ position and presses for moderate reforms, already backed by widespread public support.

He l ists at least a dozen i l log icalit ies: why it is deemed safe to stand up to celebrate a goal; to stand at a rock concert in a football ground; to watch League One matches standing but not Championship games; to stand in modern German stadiums. Caton also exposes numerous inconsistencies in the Taylor Report which tends to be regarded as holy writ by authorities – except when it does not suit them. Standing is allowed at rugby, despite Taylor.

Having amassed ev idence about the prevalence of standing in all-seat grounds, the safety of existing terraces, the lack of concrete evidence that terraced grounds are associated with more disorder and more injuries, Caton presents his case by letter to the major football authorities and political parties in June 2011. This is the nub of the book. Unfortunately Caton is not at his best with this letter which tries to take on too

Nobody wants to be the politician who repeals safety regulation then

Nobody wants to be the politician who repeals safety regulation then finds that something goes wrong many issues in one go. However the response from the authorities (three of which did not reply) is specious, feeble and evasive. It made me quite angry to see a “customer relations assistant” not engaging and resorting to what looked l ike a predetermined political position. The Football Licensing Authority, as it was called, was an exception in terms of the quality of its response but by the time Caton published in June 2012 there were only inklings of progress.

So what did go wrong with such a plausible case? Caton simply underestimates the importance of perceptions and politicians’ careers. In politics, to the question “why not?” there is always a good reason and a real reason. The good reason is that the phalanx of Safety Officers nationwide enjoys its greater ability to control the crowd in allseat stadiums. There are no Enjoyment Off icers in the football industry to put forward the counter-argument. There are two real reasons which Caton hints at but does not delve into.

One is the vague fear of bringing back, over the medium-term, “terrace behaviour” and all that went with it. The second is that nobody wants to be the politician who repeals safety regulation and then f inds that something goes wrong. Kate Hoey, as Minister for Sport, tried but was very swiftly and brutally over-ruled by her boss Chris Smith, the Culture Secretary. We may have to wait until the all-seat regulations have gone the way of the restrictions on alcohol l icensing introduced in 1916 to aid the war effort – and which meant Englishmen could not have a pint in a pub at 3.30pm until they were repealed in 1989.

Stand Up Sit Down is interesting as a thorough and even-handed account of how fans with a cause interact with authority. Even for modest and well-argued proposals it takes fans years of toil to push a fan-centred agenda against the grain of the thinking of those in power. The message comof those in power. The message com-

ing back sounds l ike “sit down, shut up”.

Stand Up Sit Down – a choice to watch football by Peter Caton, Matador Publishing £9.99

Stand Up Sit Down – a choice to watch football by Peter Caton, Matador Publishing £9.99

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