Return to standing?

Return to standing?

One premier league and several championship clubs have given their backing to a campaign for the re-introduction of ‘standing’ facilities at football matches. Added to this, around fifty MP’s have signed an early day motion calling for a ‘trial’ of standing sections.

Many other are strongly opposed to any return to standing at 1st and 2nd tier football stadiums, not least the Hillsborough families. The disaster of 1989 was not the first occasion that fans had been crushed at Hillsborough. In a 1981 FA Cup semi-final 38 Spurs fans were injured after being crushed - and similar events took place in 1987 and again in 1988.

I feel that the re-introduction of standing at matches will lead to a return to the bad old days of football. Issues of overcrowding and crushing aside, I would be concerned about the return of violence that tainted the game so badly in the 1980’s, a return of plummeting attendances, and ‘no go’ areas.

Whilst proponents of ‘standing’ readily quote the health and safety record of the Bundesliga which has ‘standing’ facilities, they do not mention the rise of hooliganism.

The promises of robust and modern day crowd control techniques, and policies and procedures are all well and good, however, I am sure that the footballing authorities would have claimed that similar systems were in place prior to the Hillsborough disaster.

The game and wider fan culture has changed immeasurably since the Hillsborough disaster and the Taylor report. Many clubs and stadiums are much more family friendly environments than they once were. I vividly remember going to many matches in the mid to late 1980’s with my father, and whilst it was exciting to go and see my hero’s in the flesh, it was also terrifying. I certainly would never take a child into such an environment.

Part of me believes that there is a certain amount of rose tinted lenses being peered through over this issue. I have spoken to several people about a return to standing, and the stock responses are generally tales of ‘the good old days’, and how great the atmosphere used to be. Although some of those who make these claims have never been to a football match that has had standing facilities, and are just re-stating what they have heard from those that have.

I do not believe that the use of a small ‘trial’ and the hand-picked fans that will participate in them will achieve anything other than give those who want a return to standing all the evidence they need for its safe use. A small and false situation that will be heavily managed by stewards and police proves nothing.
For many, apart from the cost, going to a football match is a much safer, inclusive, and enjoyable experience than it was 25 years ago. The cultures and problems exacerbated by old fashioned stadiums have been largely eradicated.

Those who say that football has changed for the good and use it as a justification for bringing back ‘standing’, are missing the point as to why and how it has changed. A return to standing will be like square pegs and round holes.

Posted By

working class s...
Dec 13 2012 12:49

Share


  • For many, apart from the cost, going to a football match is a much safer, inclusive, and enjoyable experience than it was 25 years ago. The cultures and problems exacerbated by old fashioned stadiums have been largely eradicated.

Attached files

Comments

Rob Ray
Dec 13 2012 13:51

I'd imagine the cost is a far more important factor in that much-vaunted atmosphere than being able to stand up for 90 minutes ever was.

flaneur
Dec 13 2012 15:55
Quote:
For many, apart from the cost, going to a football match is a much safer, inclusive, and enjoyable experience than it was 25 years ago. The cultures and problems exacerbated by old fashioned stadiums have been largely eradicated.

Family friendly fun! That's it though, football cultures have been eradicated, and what you're left with is the prawn sandwich brigade, 2.4 children and soulless stadiums.

Which was the whole point of the Taylor report. The era of respectability was needed with the new Sky television rights, the Premier League and the big money. Problems with architecture, over zealous ticketing and policing could be blamed on not parking your arse. Speaking of which, Hillsborough would never have happened if there wasn't far too many fans corralled into fenced off areas with belligerent police on the pitchside.

In any case, you can see what it's like to stand at a game rather than speculate, most non league stadiums have terraces.

Jim Clarke
Dec 13 2012 16:32

Do you go to football matches?

working class s...
Dec 13 2012 16:38

2-3 a season (ish)

mons
Dec 13 2012 16:41

League football still has terraces too, not just non-league! I go to a fair bit of league 2 footy and plenty of grounds have big standing sections. Is it actually banned - in what leagues?

working class s...
Dec 13 2012 16:51

premier league and championship do not have / not allowed terraces (I think there is set time that a team promoted to the championship can take to convert to all seater) and then league 1 and 2 can have either (or at least thats the way I understand it)

wojtek
Dec 13 2012 17:03
Reddebrek
Dec 13 2012 17:36

I've had the "privilege" of standing in the cold for 90 minutes several times whilst supporting Grimsby Town, and honestly there wasn't much difference in atmosphere compared to seating. In fact turnouts were usually worse for home side teams whose stadiums still had the terracing. What did change atmosphere's where the usual getting hammered, a naff Ref and even worse getting hammered because of a naff ref.

Though if I remember correctly maximum seating at Blundell park (currently in Conference) is just over 6,000 not including the away section. According to some old timers I know they used to pack in 25,000 when it was all terraced and we were playing in League one or better. With that in mind I'm surprised the big teams waited this long to lobby for such a golden opportunity to more then double their box office take.

Though I suppose now Hilsborough's been "resolved" the way is clear to start lobbying.

proletarian.
Dec 13 2012 19:08

My limited experience of standing in mid-late 90's was that atmosphere and experience was miles better, i.e even if the football was shite you still had a good time. Started going Arsenal (friend was a supporter) all seating at Highbury and it was terrible, hardly any atmosphere. Just small pockets of chanting which would usually last a minute or two then die down. Appalling. But I know Arsenal has a bad reputation for atmosphere. Anyway, people who have never experienced terraces regarding standing as the evil of all evils are idiots. And a lot of people are giving the impression if you like standing then you are a hooligan which is also idiotic. p.s what's the difference between standing and sitting in the cold? Don't go to football anymore, it's a con and shit.

freemind
Dec 14 2012 22:59

Terracing will come back when football implodes and gives the fans the chance to set the agenda.
People stand anyway at matches anyway and with effective stewarding and fan involvement the threat of mass 80's style violence will be neutralised.
Many clubs fear that they will have to slash prices due to terracing being cheaper but we are at the start of a decline in watching football as the loyal base has been alienated and chooses to boycott games or have become totally disaffected.
Many families attend Bundesliga games and the stadia and atmosphere are excellent.
Bring back the terrace and save my shins from being scuffed by bloody seats especially after going over 2 rows of them celebrating an RVP last minute winner!

sihhi
Dec 15 2012 22:47

Interesting blog. For info, in non-League part-time professional, Coles Park, has primitive stone seats.
I've only ever been to one Premiership match, and it did feel weird, exciting but weird because we were at the top of the stand on one end, having to look at a screen which got blocked by people standing up every time the ball went near-ish the penalty box.

EastTexasRed
Dec 16 2012 19:06

This is a difficult one. I used to stand at White Hart Lane decades ago and then the atmosphere really changed when it was all-seating (although I do think it was also to do with a slew of dismal seasons and the atmosphere has improved since). I think it used to be more exciting but it was definitely a really macho excitement and there were a few times when I was shitting myself - but usually that was afterwards out on the street. I didn't go alot, I went more after it became all-seater because I lived near WHL then. I wonder, though, if it is standing that causes trouble or if it's something to do with wider social causes? Definitely the gentrification of football has changed the culture, and all-seaters have been a part of a determined strategy by the boardrooms to maximise revenue by making the sport more middle-class. So I'm not certain that reintroducing standing would be a step backward. I would've thought it's got a lot to do with male aggression in society - after all, there used to be huge all-standing crowds without violence prior to the 1960s/70s. My first brush with crowd trouble was when my grandad took me to Southampton when Leeds ran rings around them in (I think) 1971. My grandad was an Aldershot fan and I remember him despairing about the violence that was creeping into the game - so my non-expert guess is that standing and trouble are not interchangeable. And my anarchist-inspired feeling is that we should reintroduce standing just to put the shits up the bourgeoisie. Not very scientific.

Reddebrek
Dec 16 2012 22:36

"And my anarchist-inspired feeling is that we should reintroduce standing just to put the shits up the bourgeoisie."

How? fan associations have been pushing for terraces on and off since they lost them and nothings come of it. The only reason you and I and anyone is even thinking about the possibility is because a number of big clubs have started pushing for it. These clubs are not only million pound making franchises but their owners are often the worst of the worst big names in global capital. If they didn't want this this wouldn't be an issue outside a fan's newsletter.

I strongly suspect given similar business practices were seating is concerned that if terracing does get the go ahead it won't be the type some of us remember. This is conjecture but I think they'll use it as an excuse to increase maximum occupancy with a bunch of "cheap seats" for a reduced (but still over priced) ticket cost. Think less glory days and more stationary Ryan Air. I may be wrong but I just don't see the top chairs at the FA and others suddenly coming down with a case of nostalgia.

EastTexasRed
Dec 17 2012 11:42

Yeah, wasn't supposed to be taken too seriously. And I agree that if the initiative comes from the boardrooms then it'll be along revenue maximising lines, not for the sake of fans. Stationary Ryanair probably hits the nail on the head.

thegonzokid
Dec 17 2012 16:22

If people want to stand they've got the option of going to non-league matches and supporting a proper local team instead of paying millionaires wages and queueing up for ages at half-time for a 2 quid kitkat and a 3 quid bottle of carlsberg.

xslavearcx
Dec 28 2012 14:57
Rob Ray wrote:
I'd imagine the cost is a far more important factor in that much-vaunted atmosphere than being able to stand up for 90 minutes ever was.

I think its not the seating thats the problem per se: its the conjunction of seating and a greater portion of fans attending via season tickets with a corresponding allocated seat which imo acts like a quasi privatisation of space per spectator (which ties into your point about pricing). By having allocated seats it makes it very difficult for fans who wish to create an atmosphere to come together as it were. That could be changed by not being so stringent on the allocated seating policy and would not require standing to be reinstituted to get that happening imo.

But then thats just a problem for the glory hunters that go to the top team games. "Go and see your local team!" we self righteous small team supporter say (which to be fair only really has relevance in scotland)

freemind
Dec 29 2012 10:05

Gonzo kid!
Your analysis is wrong in that whatever team someone supports is " proper" .Your team chooses you in effect.to expect people to switch teams is a non- starter and anathema to true supporters.
As a United fan I hate the way players behave in a selfish,arrogant manner and whore themselves to the highest bidder but fans from the Premier League to Non- League should fight to bring the game back to its roots and community on all levels.Standing is just one facer of that.

flaneur
Dec 29 2012 19:03
freemind wrote:
Gonzo kid!
Your analysis is wrong in that whatever team someone supports is " proper" .Your team chooses you in effect.to expect people to switch teams is a non- starter and anathema to true supporters.
As a United fan I hate the way players behave in a selfish,arrogant manner and whore themselves to the highest bidder but fans from the Premier League to Non- League should fight to bring the game back to its roots and community on all levels.Standing is just one facer of that.

This is pie in the sky and would probably suit a previous age. My team chose me, and then the FA sanctioned them fucking off to the Midlands, setting the precedent for further franchise style moves. And what do you do if you move to another city or country? Carrying on supporting a team you'll never see? Football's embryonic nature to the working class ended a long time ago, you might as well start supporting your local bowling team.

freemind
Dec 31 2012 17:49

Hello Flaneur!
Your team does choose you but if the team you support moves away then you have a decision regarding your own heart and soul whether you support them still.Im guessing that you were a Wimbledon fan.
If you move to another country is a red herring,I know many people who have moved away and although they cannot get to the games still hold a strong passion for the team they support.
The fact remains that football is awaiting an implosion and when that happens there is an opportunity to set the agenda.Fans are more highly organised than 25 years ago and standing albeit in a limited sense is becoming a real possibility.
I personally have supported United since I was 9 and have been a match going Red for 23 years but over the last 2 years I've gone from 35games a season to 3 or4.
That doesn't diminish what I feel for my team in the slightest but makes me angry that I've been priced out by parasites who should be fought regardless.

xslavearcx
Jan 1 2013 19:32

Do you not support AFC wimbledon flaneur?

flaneur
Jan 3 2013 15:36

See, I don't understand the emotional attachment bit, but then I've always preferred Championship Manager and Sensible Soccer to watching real football. But that is the whole point, isn't it, to watch it? And when the bubble does burst, the television deals that currently exist to allow the priced out fans to carry on watching their team will also be over, meaning you'll have to turn up at the ground come Saturday. It makes sense if that's a team nearby, rather than halfway across the city or in another. Speaking of Wimbledon, it'd probably mean they'd be more folk from South London in the home stand than the away, as was common when Man Utd or Liverpool came down to play, making franchise moves redundant.

Slavearc, not really. I haven't been for a few seasons now and I'm still living in the 90s about football. They are looking into moving back to Wimbledon from Kingston though, which would make going a bit easier and maybe I can find my 96-97 Henrik Larsson poster.

xslavearcx
Jan 3 2013 15:57

Being a partick thistle supporter in the same city as the "old firm" i know the feeling well about when the away support is bigger than the home support. What is so shitty about scottish football is that situation is the same for pretty much every team in Scotland never mind us being in the same city as the big 2.

I think there is a danger that english football will become more like scottish football if present trends in football continue, that peoples initial experiences of football are through television rather than going to local team, and i think that the aggregate 'product' of english football will be dimished if it ever reaches the way it is here where stadiums are pretty much empty unless one of the top 5 comes along. I guess the population will prevent it ever becomming that bad though.

I myself havent been to more than a handful of games for the last couple of seasons. But ive just got a long running dole appeal sorted and am expecting a big windfall. So am about to buy a half season ticket - my team apparently are playing the best football since 71 and the atmosophere is meant to be electric. So for the first time in my life i can actually say that i am being a glory-hunter by choosing the see partick thistle at this time. Never thought id see the day that glory hunter and partick thistle supporter could be related concepts!!

xslavearcx
Jan 3 2013 16:06

Also, a lot often gets said about an inevitablity of a crash happening in football from which finance will one again be more tied to fans through the gate situation. But would that really be the case. I mean, football has so much tied to it in terms of how products can be hung on it as sponsorship and that most people watch it on mass media now. So surely even in the context of bad economic times there will still be an imperative for companies to peg their products onto such a universal product.

Are there any examples of other sports where there has been a change from tv-sponsorship type financing to more 'traditional' models of financing following an economic decline of some sort or another?

Jim Clarke
Jan 3 2013 16:22
xslavearcx wrote:
Being a partick thistle supporter in the same city as the "old firm" i know the feeling well about when the away support is bigger than the home support.

That doesn't really happen in England, there are only a handful of clubs that take large numbers of fans away. The average number of away fans at Football League games last season was 817 according to official figures.

xslavearcx
Jan 3 2013 16:25

Yeah for scotland its only really the old firm that take large numbers of fans away. Its just that their fans tend to outnumber the home team fans (apart from hibs, hearts, aberdeen, and dundee utd maybe) - although the amount they take away with them is declining.

Red Marriott
Jan 3 2013 18:32
xslavearcx wrote:
the conjunction of seating and a greater portion of fans attending via season tickets with a corresponding allocated seat which imo acts like a quasi privatisation of space per spectator

It can also mean you get allocated to be sat next to some loud mouthy opinionated bore and have to suffer his running commentary all season.

martinh
Jan 3 2013 21:10

It's only a minority of big clubs want safer standing, hardly any in the Prem (not that automatically signifies big). Cost is the big thing, but all-seater didn't just change the atmosphere, it also allowed the clubs to whack up prices. The BBC did a survey this season about the cost of football and it makes depressing reading. A season ticket if you can afford the outlay usually translates to about 60% of cost if you go to all the games. I read a review of the Bundesliga approach somewhere (LRB maybe?) that mentioned the same thing happened with theatres in late Victorian times, prices were ramped up, attendances fell but profits rose, as people were paying much more.

The problem for a lot of football businesses is that the end product isn't worth what people pay for it, hence most medium to large clubs look to maximise season tickets and will also do good family deals. And it's not at all difficult to stand if you really want to, I think in the Championship Peterborough still have standing, and there are quite a few in the lower leagues. Also the Scottish Premier League have backed safe standing.

Jim Clarke
Jan 10 2013 11:32
Flava O Flav
Jul 1 2013 10:33

Only spotted this now. Bit of background first. I'm a Bohs fan (Bohemian FC, league of Ireland premier division), we're a fan owned club, I'm a member and go to most games, home and away. Our stadium is all seater now, though a lot of us stand in the aisles, the type of thing you wouldn't be allowed do in English grounds (at least in the upper tiers). The move to all seater happened slowly through the last decade. First step was moving the singing support away from our traditional area of the ground, the shed, into the main stand, where we've colonised the section at the end. Then the areas (mainly for away fans) that had terracing, were slowly filled with shitty bucket seats. All this time, a faction of the membership has been advocating German style terracing. However, because in the last decade, we were winning titles and looked flush for cash due to what turned out to be botched property deals, a majority happily let the board (who have now all been replaced) go ahead with their plans to turn our games into a sterile "family friendly" zone. We probably have the fact we almost went bust and are now fighting relegation to thank for the fact that they didn't succeed. At any rate, we stand home and away (some grounds still have terracing, I always prefer going to them). Anytime we have visiting English fans, they always say our atmosphere is what it used to be like over there. A lot of them come back for that reason.

Personally, I think its a no-brainer that safe standing areas should be available for those who want to stand. You can still have "family friendly areas" and seating for those who want it. I do take the point that nurturing fan culture and reversing the gentrification of the game is not the motivation for the big clubs pushing this and the fans associations will have to fight for it, for safe standing, affordable tickets for all areas of the ground and for fan control.

Whose game? Our game!