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