Thursday, 9 December 2010
Standing up for the right to stand.
During my younger days ‘the right to stand’ at football matches was a bit of an old chestnut. I remember leading a debating team in English class defending terraces. Hillsborough had changed football forever and clubs were steadily implementing the Taylor report, but many fans believed that ’safe standing’ areas could best maintain the atmosphere and traditions of the game, without compromising safety.
It’s scary to think how many years later (something-teen), but football terraces are back in the news.
The Independent reports that Liberal Democrat MP, Don Foster, has tabled a motion proposing that clubs, up to the top level, should be permitted to construct standing areas. 90% of the Football Supporters’ Federation is in favour, so there is a rare opportunity for Lib Dems to feel some love With this initiative.
Over the years, I must admit, my passion for terraces has somewhat dimmed. I rather like watching a match seated and, so long as the game is exciting, seats don’t damage the atmosphere too much. The Kop Stand at Windsor Park, for example, has created a mighty noise at international matches, since it opened. Would anyone seriously want to return to the dark, windswept and slightly scary hill which preceded it?
Of course that isn’t quite what’s being proposed. Germany is an example of best practice when it comes to safe-standing at top stadia. I took a tour of the Axa Arena in Munich a number of years ago and the terraces there aren’t exactly the traditional concrete mounds of British football.
Rather barriers separate each row of spectators and flip seats can be added for European games. It’s not the seething mass, for which older football fans have an understandable nostalgia, but it does allow for cheaper tickets and provides a safe area for those who do wish to stand.
Football can’t simply go backwards but if closely regulated terraces can accommodate fans without any compromises on safety, then this proposal deserves closer consideration.