Henry McLeish backs plans for fan standing areas

HENRY McLeish has given broad backing to the reintroduction of standing areas in Scotland’s top flight.

The former First Minister has now seen 95 per cent of his recommendations adopted after he made a report commissioned three years ago by the Scottish Football Association into the developments required to revitalise the game.

But he admits his opinions on the standing issue have altered entirely.

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“I remember when the Friday night football was first suggested and we couldn’t get the police to agree to it at that time because of concerns about resources being stretched. That has moved. We now have games taking place on a Friday evening,” he said.

“Three years ago when I did this report there was a lot of representation made to me about standing areas and personally I was totally opposed to them. I am now not.

“It has worked elsewhere. When you are talking about standing areas you are maybe talking about the two big clubs [Celtic and Rangers] and maybe Hibs and Hearts when they have big crowds. But with standing areas goes an enormous responsibility to every fan and the only lingering doubt is can we set those areas up and ensure safety, security and we don’t get back to any of the problems of the past?

“The Germans have them but they have a different culture, different problems, but it is still football. So I have had a complete rethink and I think the game should want to entertain that [standing areas] more positively. It would have to be with caution, it would have to be on strict terms where fan behaviour is concerned and for me it is another reason why we should try and experiment within boundaries.

“It is a trust issue with the fans. The fans would be on trial and if it didn’t work the tragedy would be it would be bad for our image and it might result in an action or someone being injured.”