Can English Football Stadiums Stand A Change?
There are moves afoot to bring standing terraces back into English football. Ever since the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, football stadiums in England have been all seated. Initially seen as a safety measure, it rapidly became a way for football clubs to charge a higher entrance fee and to gentrify the game in general.
It was obvious to most people long ago, but now that the authorities have accepted that it wasn’t the fans, or the existence of terracing that caused Hillsborough disaster. The Hillsborough Family Support Group are opposed to the move back to standing – saying the absence of standing terraces has prevented similar disasters happening. However, right now football in England has an image problem and could do with some populist changes. Standing is seen as being for ‘real fans’ and would presumably be cheaper than seats.
Standing terraces have continued to exist in the Bundesliga in Germany with no apparent ill-effects. In fact, there are a huge amount of lessons the Bundesliga has for The Premier League, chief amongst them being terraces and season tickets for around $250.
In truth, the final decision about this rests with the police. There is a belief that standing at football matches somehow engenders worse behaviour, though having a seat didnt stop a fan hitting Rio Ferdinand with a coin last weekend, or two other fans from racially abusing Sebastian Bassong. Anyone who has been in the away end at a game could tell you that though there are seats, the fans stand throughout the game anyway. Standing or sitting, idiots are idiots.
A few club have come forward as willing guinea-pigs, Aston Villa chief amongst them, with West Ham, Swansea and Sunderland all reportedly keen too. If you can sell out your games at an all-seated venue, then having a standing area is surely a no-brainer. More fans means more revenue for the club (though how West Ham expect to sell out an increased capacity Olympic stadium remains to be seen).
Though standing might not sit well with the middle-class corporate atmosphere at places like The Emirates or Old Trafford, most neutrals would love to see The Kop at Anfield, or proper old school grounds like Craven Cottage, St James’s Park or White Hart Lane with a large standing terrace behind one goal.
Mark Cruise is a soccer writer for Rantsports. Follow him on Twitter: @chiefhairyman