Safe standing has long been a contentious issue in English football. Since the days when it caused major and tragic problems; standing at football has been forbidden. The government ruled it mandatory to have every stadium in the top two tiers as all-seater in 1989 and at the time this was understandable.
— Brooks Bailey (@USsoccerFanz) 16 September 2016
But since those days, football has changed. There is a far greater awareness as to the dangers of uncontrolled standing at football and the events at Hillsborough meant the issue became understood nationwide. Now, however, standing has begun to make a comeback in a thankfully successful and safe fashion. A survey in 2015 showed that 96.1% of fans back the idea of safe standing trials. And this season saw its first *major* introduction to Britain.
— Sky Sports Scotland (@ScotlandSky) 5 May 2016
There are plenty of other examples of safe standing, however. Borussia Dortmund, Hannover 96 and Bayern Munich to name a few. Furthermore, Morecambe FC and St Helens rugby league club have successfully implemented the system at their grounds.
And now, in a move that will surely spark the introduction of safe standing across English football; Chelsea and Manchester United are holding talks to establish their own safe standing sections. Stamford Bridge is on the cusp of a £500 million rebuild and the idea of increasing its capacity from 41,000 to 60,000 whilst implementing safe standing is firmly in the mind of developers.
Over at Manchester United, senior executives have made a trip to Parkhead in order to view the safe standing and have since been considering the notion themselves. For all his flaws, Ed Woodward has always been in favour.
Liverpool are another Kingpin pushing for this move to be approved, with 93% of the Spirit of Shankly members voting in favour of it.
The only thing standing in these club’s way is the typically regressive Premier League who are refusing to lobby parliament in order to change the 1989 Football Spectators Act so that it allows for safe standing. However, many clubs are now arguing that ‘rail seating’, which accommodates safe standing, is actually legal and so simply needs approval from the Government; via the Premier League. Clubs are therefore applying pressure on the league to get this clarified. And with United and Chelsea majorly jumping on the bandwagon, we could end up seeing safe seating across all divisions sooner than previously expected.
But it’s not just one great fuss for a throwback to the good ol’ days…
Far from it:
- Safe standing increases capacity in a given area and subsequently can reduce ticket prices. This makes football more accessible for everyone and would increase the diversity amongst fans.
- It improves atmosphere. 71% of fans stand for “better atmosphere”. With so many stadiums being devoid of noise and passion these days, this could provide the solution we’re all waiting for.
- Fans will stand regardless and it is considerably safer for them to do so in safe standing areas rather than those assigned for sitting.
- Supporters are given a choice. Those who wish to sit without their view being blocked can do so elsewhere, away from standing sections.
- Seating can be cramped and uncomfortable (we’ve all sat next to Big Fat Dave who needs three seats alone, so can surely understand this).
The list waffles on.
Ultimately, safe standing would have an overwhelmingly positive impact on English football. And with the support of the country’s biggest clubs, it may just become reality in the near future.
So, easy at the pub next time – in case you end up back on your arse. I mean, who wants to sit?