Safe Standing in English Football

By | February 29, 2016

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.

One thought on “Safe Standing in English Football

  1. Matt

    With regards to clubs looking to increase ticket prices in 2016, you are right about clubs trying to bleed the fans dry, but the Liverpool protests have really hit home the issues of constantly increasing ticket prices and effectively pricing a generation of mainly youngsters out . Now, if you were to take the Kop at Anfield which holds around 12,000 seats and create an ultra safe ‘Rail Standing’ area at a 1.8 ratio (2 people to 1 seat) which is what they have at certain clubs in Germany most notably like Bremen and Hoffenheim you would increase the capacity of that section to around 18,500. The extra capacity would then allow clubs to lower tickets that were maybe once, around £35/£40 to a more reasonable £20/25. These areas would also not interfere with the clubs insistence in creating those expensive hospitality sections. It’s a win/win situation.

    One of the other big things you haven’t talked about along side the issue of high ticket prices is the fact that thousands of fans stand in seated areas as it is. We have a generation of fans that still don’t sit down at football, but they are paying the price for it. You watch any set of away fans in the top two divisions and you will see a section of supporters not using the seats they have paid for. This is indeed a double edged sword. The one side is that the fans that stand are, most likely, the fans that will make the noise that is promoted and marketed around the world as the ‘famous English atmosphere’ so clubs and the EPL are reluctant to clamp down on the big boys like Man Utd and Liverpool fans expressing themselves at stadiums up and down the Country. The other side is that those fans have paid for a seat, the going rate for a seat, which still is too high. Thats the big issue for me. These sections are not accepted by the clubs or authorities, they are organically made by the fans that don’t want to sit at a match so that causes countless problems including fans that don’t actually want to stand to issues with regards to safety.

    That is where we now need that little bit of common sense. Fans want to stand at matches. The link below is from MUST (Manchester United Supporters Trust) that shows over 90% support for standing areas.

    Fans want to stand, and do, up and down the Country, but do so in seated areas, and at seated prices. Thats the crux of the matter and that is what needs to be addressed once and for all over the next year or two.

    Celtics introduction of 2,600 safe standing spaces next season is a great start but that is all it is, a start. Hopefully the success at Celtic Park will show the rest of Scotland and then England that it is the future for a more reasonable product for both fans that want to stand at football matches and also fans that want a reasonable price to get in as well.


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