The case for safe stand­ing

In KEVIN HALLS ex­plains why he’s at favour of stand­ing ar­eas re­turn­ing the top lev­els of the game…

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - OPINION -

SO, IT’S not long now un­til a new sea­son gets un­der way – ex­cite­ment is build­ing up and down the coun­try as fans look for­ward with op­ti­mism to a suc­cess­ful cam­paign.

Spurs sup­port­ers will be mak­ing the short jour­ney to Wem­b­ley Sta­dium to watch their team play their home games, as their new sta­dium is un­der con­struc­tion.

And West Ham go into their sec­ond sea­son at the Olympic Sta­dium hop­ing that their home form im­proves and they can turn their new home into a fortress with the same in­tim­i­dat­ing at­mos­phere of Up­ton Park.

But if you’re look­ing for at­mos­phere and char­ac­ter, will large mod­ern are­nas ever match the at­mos­phere of the ‘old-type’ grounds?

Yes, mod­ern sta­di­ums look the busi­ness and com­fort is sec­ond to none, but, let’s be hon­est, they are more like the­atres now with ‘au­di­ences’ in­stead of crowds, and at some grounds you’re that far from the ac­tion you need binoc­u­lars to see what’s go­ing on!

Af­ter the tragic events at Hills­bor­ough and Brad­ford, safety at matches had to be ad­dressed and, add to that the hooli­gan­ism that blighted the game, it was para­mount that foot­ball cleaned up its act.

Now you can go to watch a match and sit down in a nice com­fort­able seat know­ing you’ll be safe. The only real dis­com­fort you’ll get is watch­ing your team get beat again…

But now there’s talk of top-flight grounds hav­ing a stand­ing sec­tion like they have at grounds across Europe, a safe area where fans can stand in­stead of sit­ting down dur­ing a match.

It has been hailed a suc­cess in Europe and, in turn, cre­ated a bet­ter at­mos­phere.

In fact, West Brom want to use part of the Hawthorns as a pi­lot scheme and are keen to bring in a safe stand­ing sec­tion at their Mid­lands sta­dium.

I would wel­come this as I much pre­fer to stand at games. If there was a vote on stand­ing or sit­ting at matches, I’m sure I know who would win!

I’ve been go­ing to grounds for decades and en­joyed vis­it­ing sta­di­ums where you’d be stood on a large open ter­race. It meant you had to be dressed ac­cord­ingly, which could see you wear­ing an anorak and woollen hat and scarf – and that was in Au­gust!

But if you got a draw or a win on your trav­els, you’d be as happy as Larry.

All mod­ern sta­di­ums look the same and, while easy on the eye, lack charisma. Is it any won­der many fans say they’re bland and bor­ing?

I was for­tu­nate enough to visit An­field in the Seven­ties. I stood in the away end and watched in awe at the sight and sound of 20-odd thou­sand Liver­pool fans on the Kop sway­ing in uni­son and singing You’ll Never Walk Alone at full vol­ume. It sent shiv­ers down your spine.

And the same again on a trip to Old Traf­ford stood op­po­site the Stret­ford End and ob­serv­ing the United fans roar­ing on their team through­out the game. It left you with Tin­ni­tus ring­ing in your ears.

There was also the at­mos­phere at Roker Park, the old home of Sun­der­land, where they cer­tainly got be­hind their play­ers, and the crack­ing at­mos­phere at lo­cal der­bies when my team Coven­try City would visit Fil­bert Street, Le­ices­ter City’s old ground.

While the sta­dium was a bit ‘rick­ety’, it had char­ac­ter and the noise would echo around the ter­races.

So, yes, mod­ern are­nas look the ‘bees knees’ and if you like to rest your bum on a nice padded seat, and where if you stand up for more than a minute you may get a stew­ard telling you to sit down at once, then you’ll no doubt be happy.

Yes, we never want to re­turn to the bad old days when a trip to a foot­ball match meant you had to be ‘on your toes’ so to speak, and you would get a soak­ing just stood on a wide-open-to-the-el­e­ments ter­race, and where a cold west wind would en­deav­our to try and de­cap­i­tate you.

But with good safety mea­sures in place, the re­turn of stand­ing would no doubt bring some much-needed at­mos­phere to many grounds. Even though it would re­ally take some do­ing to em­u­late the ‘Roker Roar’, noise com­ing from the Chelsea Shed or a packed-in-like-sar­dines Manch­ester City Kip­pax, a cov­ered en­clo­sure where a sec­tion of fans could stand would be a wel­come ad­di­tion. I’m pos­i­tive it would be a suc­cess.

The way it was: Arse­nal’s High­bury in the late 1980s

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