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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Response from The Football League to

Dear Football Supporter

Football Stewarding

Thank you for your letter of 8 December outlining some of your views and the reported comments of others on the subjected of stewarding and, in particular, it’s perceived effect on the atmosphere and attendances at football grounds.

You will obviously be aware of a number of tragedies occurring at some of the football grounds in this country and abroad over a number of years. These tragedies have led to a reappraisal of the standards required in terms of the physical structure of football stadia, the facilities for supporters and crowd management. It is clear and right that the safety of supporters must take precedence over all other issues.

Seated stadia in the top two divisions are a requirement under the law and capacities are based on supporters being seated in stands designed to accommodate seated supporters. We are aware that there are some supporters who wish to stand at matches but he majority wish to sit down and watch the match form the seat they have purchased. They express annoyance at those who stand and impede their view of the match.

Standards in society change, with what was acceptable behaviour in the past being often not acceptable any more. We cannot ignore the views of those who find unacceptable behaviour in society at large as unacceptable in a football stadium.

Stewarding is a difficult role to carry out – dealing with partisan supporters who are often in a state of excitement is not easy and supporters do not always appreciate or understand their roles and responsibilities. The role of the steward involves a duty of care to supporters but also a responsibility to manage the crown in such a way as to ensure a safe environment is maintained. Stewards are also required to deal with a range of criminal offences and to enforce Ground regulations. Failure to mange supporters, including those who stand persistently in seated areas, can and has led to reductions in capacity at a football ground. Your views on the effect of stewarding on the atmosphere and the attendances at football matches are interesting but some of the best stadia in terms of atmosphere are those where the behaviour of supporters is excellent and where supporters remain seated. There is no doubt that a stadium perceived as safe is more likely to attract supporters than one seen as unsafe.

I am pleased to hear that Leicester City have been working with some of their supporters to improve relationships and understanding. This helps the supporters to understand the problems faced by the club and for the club to understand the views of some of their supporters. As a football authority we fully endorse the work carried out by all our clubs who work hard to create a good relationship with their supporters and supporter groups. Clubs fully understand the importance of their fans in building a successful football club.

We must always be aware that safety at football grounds is paramount and we cannot move from that position. In order to ensure the safety of the majority it is sometimes necessary to deal firmly with a minority who do not wish to confirm to the standards set by the club. One of the main reasons for the increases in attendance at many clubs is that the football grounds and their environs are sent to be safe, leading to an expansion of the stereotype supporter groups who attend matches.

Thank you for writing to the Football League. We will take on board your comments and continue to encourage clubs to listen to their supporters who views are so important. We wish you and those who had an input into your letter a happy New Year and a successful conclusion to your season.

Yours sincerely

Darren Bernstein
Customer Services Manager


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