THE CLAMOUR for standing areas to be reintroduced to stadia in the top two divisions has recently grown loud enough to persuade sport minister Hugh Robertson to re-examine the case. The Premier League, Football Association and the police are all opposed or deeply sceptical of a return to terraces, but do the Football Supporters’ Federation have a point? We discuss both sides.
Every week hundreds of thousands of people safely watch top flight football games from standing areas – in Germany. Meanwhile here, masses of fans stand up in seated areas, as stewards vainly try to force them to sit down. People who want to be in seated areas have their view blocked, while people who simply prefer standing are treated like criminals.
Standing areas are allowed at concerts, rugby, and lower division football, but not at top flight matches. If standing areas are safe for 50,000 people jumping around to Bruce Springsteen, why are they not safe for Norwich v Reading?
Opponents say standing areas are a regression to the bad old days, yet in Germany clubs are actually expanding their standing areas in modern, safe, state of the art stadia.
No one wants a return to old-style, badly-policed terraces, but new, sensibly designed standing areas are safe. It’s about time law abiding football fans are allowed to stand, or sit, as is their preference.
So terraces ought to be reintroduced because, we are told, that is what some fans want. Rightly or wrongly, and excuse the cynicism, but since when was that reason enough for anything?
Forget the idea that terrace tickets would be cheaper than seats, as well. Are we really expecting clubs to raid their coffers to convert seated areas so they can charge less for tickets? Not likely.
In any case, the notion that being allowed to stand would attract greater numbers of supporters to games is highly debatable. People still don’t trust terraces – to many, they recall Hillsborough – so punters would swerve football grounds, and I’d wager it would be at least as many as would welcome the change.
There is a very good reason why no leading powerbroker within football or government has been willing to champion a return to terraces. Atmosphere might improve, but at the risk of people’s safety, and that is simply too big a price to pay.