York City in talks to remove restriction on safe standing at Community Stadium

·3-min read
York City fans in the LNER Community Stadium's South Stand made their voices heard in Saturday's 2-0 win over Woking. Picture: Adam Davy
York City fans in the LNER Community Stadium's South Stand made their voices heard in Saturday's 2-0 win over Woking. Picture: Adam Davy

YORK City are in discussions with the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) over lifting a restriction on safe standing, although the club have warned that such renovations could cost as much as £250,000.

York’s LNER Community Stadium is a 8,500 all-seater stadium, with no designated standing section in place as per the terms of a 2003 agreement with the Football Stadia Improvement Fund (FSIF).

Premier League and Sky Bet Championship clubs have been allowed to introduce safe standing areas from this season by the government, leading to City supporters questioning the possibility of such a move at their home ground, particularly in the South Stand, an area in which the bulk of fans already stand throughout matches.

Addressing the issue at the club’s fans forum on Monday night, chief executive Alastair Smith explained: “When we got the loan to buy Bootham Crescent, (in 2003) which turned into a grant when we got the Stadium built, one of the covenants was that it was an all-seater stadium.

“That was a harsher covenant than other clubs have faced since.

"Jason (McGill, former chairman) did a lot of work to get FSIF to change their minds but they weren’t interested.

“We’ve moved on now where any club can have safe standing after the successful trials last year.

“I’ve been talking to Malcolm Clarke from the FSA (chairman), saying ‘Can you help us remove this covenant?’

“The answer is that the FSA are definitely going to help us.

"Trying to get that covenant removed is possible, we think.

“The next issue is, if we put safe standing in, that’s going to cost a lot of money.

"We’ve had estimates of up £250,000 just for the South Stand.

“As much as we want it, we’re not in a position at the moment to spend £250,000 on that stand.

"But it is something that we are actively working on.”

Allocated seating has been introduced in the South Stand from this season, having previously been unallocated.

The decision came amid the crowd trouble seen in last season’s 2-0 Vanarama National League North play-off win over Chorley in which numerous seats were damaged, flares were thrown between the two sets of supporters and fans invaded the pitch during and after the game.

As a result, the club were forcing into holding a reduced capacity for the successful promotion final against Boston United, won 2-0, back in May, with 1,000 seats going unoccupied.

“That’s difficult,” said Smith on a potential return to unallocated seating in the stand.

“At the end of last season, there were a few problems with some of the behaviour of the fans - running on the pitch, throwing things on the pitch.

“Having allocated seating makes it easier for CCTV to identify anyone doing anything wrong.

“I understand the problems that that causes for people and if you want to stand with your friends."

The answer, Smith believes, lies in relaying such behavioural information to a section of the club's fanbase.

The chief executive continued: “What we need to do is to get some more education into some of our fans to make sure we’re not standing on seats, we’re not breaking seats, we’re not going on the pitch, we’re not falling out with stewards.

“If we can prove we’re getting there and we’re educating people, then we have a case to go back and say ‘Look at how our supporters’ behaviour has improved, can we please go back to unallocated seating?’