Times have changed, football is ready to stand again

Rails seats in a stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria, which was built for Euro 2008.

Rails seats in a stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria, which was built for Euro 2008. - Credit: Archant

I have seen a lot of football in my life, from the joys of being a fan on the terraces to the whole gamut of emotions that came with covering Norwich City.

Football is a game that can suck any emotion out of the human body – it stirs you up and forces you to spew forth your feelings. It can turn rational, intelligent, sensible people into moronic fools, tearful, nervous wrecks or gibbering idiots. I do believe in my youth I have been there, seen it, worn the T-shirt, without violence I might add.

During my days as a fan I have never sat down; it was always standing on the terraces of lower division grounds where you sometimes could spread your arms and not touch a sole. The argy bargy of The Kop, the Stretford End or The Bridge wasn't something we usually worried about.

And then a tragedy occurred at Hillsborough, and football was changed forever. The loss of 96 lives (and, don't forget, injuries to almost 800 others) quite rightly made us think again about the provision of standing areas at football grounds.

The Taylor Report led to standing terraces being wiped out at Premier League and Championship clubs.


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Subsequently, football supporters have changed; football grounds, indeed towns and cities which host them, are no longer no-go areas on match days. Grounds are much safer places to be, and if there is trouble, it is more isolated.

The gradual change in the fan demographic has heightened the call for a return to some sort of standing areas, although calling them safe standing areas seems wrong: why the need for the word 'safe'? Anyway, that's splitting hairs. Where we are now is that the Football League's 72 clubs have voted to ask the government to allow safe standing at Championship grounds.

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What they want to see is the installation of rail seats, already in use in some European countries, which are safer than the old style terraces. They are currently being trialled at Bristol City's Ashton Gate ground, but only when it is hosting rugby.

If you need to be convinced of a need for change, just take a look around a football ground during a game. Most fans, certainly in the traditionally vocal areas, stand, despite the presence of seats. If you want to sit down, you won't see the game. If you stand and someone behind you falls, then you fall – over seats which you will make contact with at shin height. It will hurt. Thousands of fans at every Premier League ground in the country stand when they should be sitting.

Why? Because they want to stand. They want to enjoy the atmosphere that they create. If they sit, they don't cheer and sing in the same way as if they were standing. And football teams can benefit: if a team is struggling it needs backing.

The Football Supporters' Federation want to see change: not a return to fences, crumbling terraces and rotting stadiums, but to comfortable standing.

It's time.

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