Following on from yesterday's announcement of a trial allowing supporters in Block One of the Colin Farmer Stand to transfer to the Optimising IT Stand if they wish, ctfc.com has spoken to the club's safety officer Nick Meeks to obtain some additional background and clarification around this issue.
The Block One 'singing section' has proved so successful this season that the numbers of people wanting to access this part of the ground is beginning to exceed the available capacity. This in itself has presented its own challenges, as Nick explained: "This issue has come to light over the past few games as we have found people with tickets for other parts of the Colin Farmer Stand trying to access Block One.
"After a recent game we also received concerns from some of the Block One regulars, who told us they did not feel safe due to the issue of overcrowding and of the surges that can take place when the supporters celebrate a goal. We have had to repair a number of broken seats in this area so it is clear that the potential for someone to suffer an injury is a real one.
"Our response has been to ask supporters to sit down at the start of the match so that we can ensure that we have one person to one seat in this part of the ground. We fully accept that there are certain parts of the ground where supporters will stand up at times during the match and we will continue to try and work with the supporters in Block One to try and manage the situation safely."
The issue is complicated by the law requiring supporters to sit in seated areas that monitored by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, the government body that oversees all designated football grounds in the UK. Nick explained: "Since the end of the Covid lockdown the SGSA have renewed their efforts to try and tackle standing in seated areas. We know, however, that this is very difficult to achieve in practice. As a football club we are caught in an impossible situation because if we tell supporters they can stand up we get into trouble with the authorities but if we tell them to sit down we get a negative reaction from those supporters. In that sense we simply cannot win.
"Since the start of the season we have tried to take a sensible approach knowing that there are certain parts of the ground, such as Block One and the away end, where people will stand at certain times. However, our number one responsibility is safety and we have to ensure that there is no overcrowding and no possibility that people can get injured. If, for example, someone were to break their leg at the ground and we were found to have allowed overcrowding or standing on staircases then we would be held accountable.
"It is for this reason that we are trying to work with the supporters in Block One to make sure that everyone can enjoy the match in the way they want to while keeping everyone safe."
Nick explained that last week there were a series of conversations between the Colin Farmer Stand stewards and the Block One supporters around the issue.
"We have tried to engage with everyone to explain the issues," he continued.
"Last week some of the Block One supporters told us that they would like to try standing in the Optimising IT Stand so we have introduced a trial tomorrow whereby they will be able to transfer across to that stand if they want. That was the crux of the message we put out yesterday.
"Ultimately the singing section has been a very positive addition to the ground and one that has been welcomed by supporters and players alike. We do, however, need the supporters in that part of the ground to work with us to make sure it can continue safely. I am willing to discuss this issue with supporters at any time and I aim to be in the vicinity of Gate 4 before the match tomorrow where I'll be more than happy to discuss further."
As a reminder of yesterday's message, any season ticket holders in Block One who want to watch the game from the Optimising IT Stand can continue to enter into the stadium through gate 4, but can then transfer to the Optimising IT Stand on a non-return journey. They will be counted over using a clicker to ensure capacities are not exceeded.
Non-season ticket holders wishing to stand should purchase terrace tickets for standing areas in the normal way and enter the stadium through gate 3.
This policy will be trialled at the Doncaster Rovers match and will be reviewed before the next home game. Supporters are reminded that they must only use the seat for which they have a match ticket.