Written by Joe Stratton • Published 11th April 2014

The PHA Group: safe standing

Standing up at football matches, what’s the big deal? This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster, where 96 fans lost their lives on a fateful April afternoon.

Now, football in this country has never been enjoyed so safely by so many, with people of all ages attending games across the country. But it wasn’t always this way. Up until the early to mid 90’s, football stadia in England were a formidable place, with grounds across the country both under-policed and plagued by England’s problems with hooliganism.

However, times have changed. With the introduction of the Football Spectators Act 1989 and the abolishment of terracing, as well as technological advancements and improved policing, problems relating to fan behaviour have almost disappeared.

Calls for the re-introduction of terracing within UK stadia has gathered pace in the last number of years, with the safe standing campaign aiming to persuade the government to accept the case for limited sections of standing areas at grounds in the Premier League and Championship football clubs. The campaign is supported by an increasing number of clubs, with Aston Villa, Cardiff, Crystal Palace and Leeds United all keen to introduce a trial of safe standing.

Image Courtesy of Leon R Queenley, flickr.con

Image Courtesy of Leon R Queenley, flickr.con

A common argument for safe standing is the example set by the German Bundesliga, and most notably Borussia Dortmund, who have the largest standing-only section in Europe (Die Südtriüne), which regularly fills its 24,454 capacity and has become famous for the intense atmosphere it generates.

Another argument is that introducing a standing only section at grounds would increase capacity by almost a third and ultimately reduce ticket prices, and bring football back to the fans. A significant point in the argument is the technological advancements, which would see the introduction of ‘rail seats’ in standing only sections, dividing each row of fans throughout the stand.

Image Courtesy of Victor, flickr.com

Image Courtesy of Victor, flickr.com

However, naturally, there are two sides to every argument, with Hillsborough families protesting against the safe standing campaign in equal measure. Although safe standing is a works in Dortmund, Dortmund is in Germany, and Germany did not go through the same problems that English football encountered throughout the 70’s and 80’s. Although we have come a long way since then, our culture will always be the same, which like it or not, may be part of a wider problem which stems from football.

Although we have lost part of that atmosphere that terracing generates, all-seater stadiums have generated a far safer and more tolerant football experience for all to enjoy, which has seen the Premier League come on leaps and bounds in every aspect. So why risk moving backwards?