On June the 25th there will a debate about allowing Championship and Premier League to have standing sections. This is after getting over 100k signatures on governments petition website. But the response from government is “The Government believes that all-seater stadia are currently the best means to ensure the safety and security of fans at designated football matches in England and Wales.”
Taylor Report was created in the aftermath of Hillsborough Disaster as stadium safety needed to be improved. One of the recommendations was to make stadiums all-seater (including rugby, horse racing, and all other sports). This law was created for English football due to Scotland’s top flight already had a rule that stadiums had to be all-seater. In 1992 they relaxed the law for the 3rd and 4th tier of English football. I do think this had a good effect in stimulating the football clubs to improve the facilities.
Re-branding of Football in England
The terraces from the 1980s were not fit for purpose. Bringing these new stands and stadiums. Also with Italy 90, Euro 96 and creation of Premier League. This changed way people looked at football. One fears is that safe standing is a step back to 1980s. This was summed up with quotes from Barry Sheerman Labour MP for Huddersfield. “I’m sorry, we fought to get safe, secure football stadiums where families could feel welcome. I will not support standing given the tragedies that we have seen!” This outdated view is my worry about the debate. As these will be new facilities that would be safer than standing in an all-seater stadium.
The Elephant in the Room
At the moment a football club in the top two tiers of English football then by law they are not allowed to have a safe standing section. Unless they have been recently promoted at which point they are given three seasons to convert there standing areas into seated areas. This doesn’t make sense to me that governments position that standing is safe in League One but not the Championship. Or that it’s safe for Celtic but not Premier League. I don’t get this logic.
WBA vs Shrewsbury
If Shrewsbury beat Rotherham next week then get promoted to Championship and will play WBA. This year WBA applied to install rail standing which was denied and Shrewsbury is currently installing safe standing. Both teams next season could be playing each other. One with legally installed safe standing and one with all-seater stadium.
Take a step back
Rail Seats are the main type of safe standing. Shrewsbury is installing rail seats for next season. They are most popular type within the Bundesliga. They have a rail between each row. This rail includes a seat so when the stand needs to be an all-seater they can use the seat within the rail. That can be used for UEFA games as it’s requirement for Champions Leauge and Europa League games. But for events when it’s going standing the seats will be locked into the rail. As standing takes up less space there will be more people in the stand.
The rails between rows mean that joining a goal that fans cannot end up three or four rows closer to the actions after a goal. A bit like a music gig as the first song starts and everyone pushes forwards. I have never experienced this at a football match. Following Crystal Palace away I have been to a good number of standing away ends in the Championship and FA Cup. But what I have seen in all-seater away ends is that a fan would lose there footing/trip over a seat and fall forwards. Not seen anyone badly hurt from this. This rail would stop them from falling forwards into other rows. Currently, there is nothing for standing fans in seated areas to prevent a surge.
Which is a great experience as the atmosphere created at Dortmund. I was seating on the opposite side of the Yellow Wall. It holds 25 thousand fans on one single tier which creates a great atmosphere. This stand has bolt on seats in the bottom half (bolt on have a rail every 5 to 15 rows) and rail seats in the top half. The supporters have a choice about which experience that they would enjoy either standing or sitting sections.
This single tier behind the goal is what gets me excited about New Whiteheart Lane. But often in a new stadium as it’s uncertain about if an area will stand or sit for the majority of the game can create tension and conflict. There was a lot of this in the first season at London Stadium for West Ham.
One of the Premier League most common complaint is that person in front is standing and blocking the view for the fans behind. In most away ends the fans will stand for the whole game and pockets in the home ends fans will stand for the game. This will not change. Every now and then a council will try to impose this change at football clubs but it does not work.
It’s possible to reduce the number of fans that do this but culturally this way that people watch football and have done since the start. Older Palace fans often talk of fondness of the old Holmesdale Terrence. The children would get lifted to the front and adults stayed at the back. That this was a great and happy memory for them.
These all-seater stadiums don’t meet the needs of football fans. If we split up the fans into seated and standing sections then we create a much better experience for all those involved.