This fall, the famed British newspaper The Guardian published a critically-acclaimed editorial arguing that the FA should allow English football grounds to explore the possibility of “safe standing” sections of seating. Proponents of safe standing argue that these prospective designs adhere to all of the FA’s safety laws and guidelines. Safe standing is a staple of the German game and is often attributed to the unprecedented recent success of the German fan groups. Back in the U.K., however, the wounds are still fresh from the tragedies of Hillsborough and Heysel.
What effect would the implementation of safe standing have in English football? For one, one could expect these “safe standings” sections would presumably have a lower ticket price than if these sections were equipped with a seat and that these seats would likely be considered in the market as inferior and worse than traditional seats. This seemingly ironclad economic-based decrease in price would likely be blocked by the clubs. 2016 has shown that the vast majority of Premier League clubs are looking for every opportunity to increase ticket prices. With a perverse incentive to safe standing, I believe that most of the revenue-generating English clubs will not jump at the chance to embrace these seating designs.
Another thing to consider: how will the up-and-coming millenial generation of football fans in England view safe standing? Would the young football community welcome the rituals of their fathers and grandfathers? Or does this hugely important demographic prefer the all-seating stadia that it has been accustomed with since the 1990s?
I believe that safe standing simply faces too many questions from the FA, which would likely prevent England’s football federation to institute a nationwide safe seating protocol or guide for footballing grounds to follow. The apparent barriers that face safe standing in England can be broken down through innovative, proactive English clubs who see the obvious benefits of safe standing. If individual clubs were to spear the safe standing campaign going forward, the FA’s hand would be forced; a decision would have to be made that would deem safe standing legal on the Isles. Hopefully, with the momentum of successful clubs behind a movement, the FA would be reluctant towards banning the practice altogether.