There is a whole generation of football fans who have grown up not knowing what it is like to stand and watch a football match. There are many who believe that they are fortunate. To others that was the real way to watch football.
Debate has raged in recent months on the prospect of safe standing areas being re-introduced into football stadia in the UK.
Research company Sportsfan carried out a survey to see what the fans felt about such a move. Incredibly 74% of those questioned said that they were in favour of safe-standing areas being re-introduced, while 80% believed it would improve the atmosphere at live matches.
Two other interesting findings were that 57% of those surveyed believed that it would make attending games cheaper to attend while 38% felt it would see clubs create a more communal and friendly atmosphere.
The overall feeling was that it was time to bring back the traditional way of watching football, and as many fans claimed they already stand in front of their seats, especially at away fixtures, it would be wise to make it legal and safe. The other view was that it would also mean increased capacity at grounds which would benefit those clubs who regularly “sell out” as fans unable to get tickets may now be able to watch the games.
The Bundesliga was used by many as an example of a league that operates safe standing effectively.
Not surprisingly those against such a move, 80% claimed that they had concerns over safety aspects, while 63% felt that there would be a negative impact on those bringing children to a game or attending as a family.
Understandably many who remember Hillsborough expressed the view that Liverpool fans could not justify the decision to return to standing. Although interestingly many surveyed felt that football stadiums which allowed standing prior to the Hillsborough tragedy offered safe standing. There is no doubt that some grounds facilities were far better than others, and as was revealed post Hillsborough, Sheffield Wednesday had failed to implement the safety requirements that had been requested and the FA had failed to check that they had been made. A typical case of administrators making rules but failing to police them. The only other major concern for those not in favour of standing room returning was a potential reduction in visibility of the pitch and players.
This was simply a survey but it will be interesting to see if these findings are used when a decision is made by the Football and ground safety authorities. There are many who grew up watching football on the terraces who would welcome such a move; this writer is one. However what happened at Hillsborough must never be forgotten and must never happen again, safety must come first and clubs must have all safety measures and procedures in place before such a move is made.
Certainly one thing that would need to be looked at is the ability to exit the stand. In the bad old days once you were in, you could not leave until ten minutes from the end of the game, and often in the “Away supporters” ends, not for a half hour after the game had finished. This caused a major crush and when the gates were opened a surge of bodies that frequently saw people pushed over.
Will we see standing return in England, maybe, but one feels it is still a number of years away.