Tom Ross Birmingham Mail Weds Nov 16th 2016.
I am a big supporter of the move to have the law changed to allow Premier League and Championship clubs to have safe standing areas.
Over the past few years there has been a lot of talk about many clubs supporting, and investigating, the possibility of these “safe standing” areas but without anything happening.
Being of a generation I remember only too well when grounds were virtually all standing, however since 1989 the law has required that fans be seated.
This came as a direct consequence of the tragic Hillsborough disaster that saw 96 Liverpool supporters sadly die because of crushing at the Leppings Lane end.
However since then investigations have proven that the disaster had nothing to do with “standing” but for a myriad of reasons including a gate being opened on Police orders to relieve congestion outside of the ground and the failure to direct fans away from the central areas of the Leppings Lane Stand that were overcrowded. The Police failed to plan properly for what was a massive sporting occasion and were rightly held accountable for what happened.
In 1992 the law was relaxed for Leagues One and Two who can, and many do, have standing areas.
It’s about time this was extended to Premier League and Championship clubs.
Many say that all seated stadia also helps to combat and control “hooliganism” well we know only too well that is not necessarily the case.
It was Coventry City that had the first all seated ground in the early 80’s but eventually ended up removing some seats when it did not stop disorder among fans.
A lot has been done to combat hooliganism within football and without doubt it is a safer game than it was in the dark days of the 80’s when trouble and disorder were commonplace.
The big question for me is are all seated stadiums automatically safer? The answer is in my opinion no.
Next time you are at a game watch and see how many fans stand up anyway despite not being allowed to do so. And I would suggest that when a goal is scored almost everyone in the ground including the director’s box stands up to celebrate. This is understandable in a sport that can be highly charged emotionally from the start to finish.
When you are standing in a row of seats and anyone pushes forward there is a greater danger of injury because of the seats in my opinion. Surely modern barriers that are longer and stronger would help control the sway and movement of fans when goals are scored.
However its worth pointing out that we had few problems with that with much bigger attendances.
Has all seated grounds affected the atmosphere-without doubt, has it affected attendances without question, especially at the majority of clubs outside of the top 5 or 6.
Before I was in the press box I would go to Blues and catch up with my pals and we could add to the group without any fear because we would all just stand together on the Tilton.
These days if you decide that you just fancy going to a game for whatever reason and want to be with your pals who have got tickets or are season ticket holders it is impossible because of the way tickets are allocated.
However lots of people and especially families prefer to sit and their needs are just as important and should be accommodated for. Family stands/areas are an absolute must and no one is suggesting otherwise it is easy to cater for the needs of both those who prefer standing and those who prefer to be seated.
I am sure our top clubs who compete regularly in the Champions League and Europa Leagues will say they have to be all seated to satisfy UEFA’s rules-well do what a lot of foreign clubs do and have rail seats which can be converted easily from seats to standing
Will it happen? I hope so but to be honest I am sceptical due to the fact that it would be costly to take out seats and put in either modern safe barriers, rail seats, or foldaway seats etc. Without a guarantee of increased attendances that extra cost would put a lot of clubs off.
But here’s an idea why don’t the Premier League and Football League along with the clubs use some of the billions received from TV to finance it? As you are reading this have a quick look to see if there are any pigs flying past!
Everyone in the game, you know who I mean the suits from the governing bodies, boardrooms and TV companies are always somewhat patronisingly telling the world that there is no game without supporters! Well prove that you believe your own words by campaigning for a change in legislation that will give the fans what they want in order for them to have a better match day experience-and that is safe standing areas.
I would be interested in your views and opinions on this emotive issue.