Jon Punt: It’s time for Norwich City fans to make themselves heard at Carrow Road
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Sports Minister Tracey Crouch's recent decision to reject West Bromwich Albion's request to trial safe standing at the Hawthorns flies in the face of increasing calls for supporter choice, long since taken from football fans after the Hillsborough disaster.
It also highlighted the fact the government's position is significantly out of kilter with most fans given that recent surveys conducted, both countrywide and among Liverpool fans specifically, have shown widespread support for the reintroduction of standing within the top two tiers of English football.
Within the current political climate, it is hard to see a change of policy or legislation happening in the near future, despite significant pressure from a number of supporter groups.
This is a blow to Norwich City's hopes given their recent engagement with Norfolk MPs, all with the long term aim of rail seating being installed within the Barclay End.
Steve Stone's comments on the situation are admirable and encouraging, they were also preceded by Ed Balls' approval swiftly after he joined the club as chairman. We have a club at the forefront of the debate, for that we should be thankful.
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The hope is when the powers that be at Whitehall have a change of heart and recognise those who want safe standing aren't just the vocal minority we've been currently labelled, City will look to replicate the success of rail seating currently enjoyed across the Bundesliga and at Celtic Park.
In turn, this should positively affect a largely stagnant Carrow Road atmosphere, also identified by Stuart Webber as borderline embarrassing when his then Huddersfield side visited. On that night a small but hardy group of Terriers' supporters spurred their side onto victory, the response from Norwich's fans that evening was a virtual wall of silence.
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However, as much as it will help, safe standing will not cure all of the atmospheric ills currently experienced on match day.
It isn't the silver bullet some hope it is, and the primary reason for this centres around the fact City may well be a victim of their own off field success.
The days are gone where the Barclay, and on occasion the Snake Pit, is a cauldron of noise. There are a myriad of factors behind this, on field performances included, but the most pertinent is the changing and ageing demographic of the supporters present in both areas of the ground.
As those loyal Canary followers have grown older, the general inclination (and it doesn't apply to all) is to become less involved in the singing around them.
Traditionally those fans may have gravitated towards other, more comfortable stands, but this luxury isn't available when 22,000 die hards continue to renew their season tickets.
Right now, the fans who wish to cheer on their side throughout the match, by continually singing and chanting, are dispersed across small pockets of the Barclay and often struggle to get their voices heard properly because of this.
With that in mind, safe standing may not be the instant fix everyone hopes, given the likelihood existing occupants of the Barclay would be reallocated an area to stand which is similar in position to that of their current seat.
The predicament City currently face, in Championship terms, is relatively unique. Other sides are able to relocate supporters to designated vocal areas, often called singing sections, where like minded folk can congregate together, subsequently creating a more meaningful and focused cacophony of sound to cheer on their team. Often this has been in parts of the stadium which have been previously unoccupied. Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest and Watford are all excellent examples of where this has worked extremely well.
However, the circumstances City face may be about change. The club are being proactive and are currently consulting with fans about the possibility of a singing section.
It doesn't stop supporters from creating that change on their own though. With current season ticket renewal numbers lower than would usually be anticipated, there is an opportunity to fill the gaps left by those who've become frustrated by the current project.
If you are a supporter who currently wants to sing but is stifled by the silence around you, the option is available to contact the ticket office and request a move to the back rows of Blocks D and E in the Barclay. If you are already situated in that area of the ground but don't know how to channel your enthusiasm, there is a supporters' group, Barclay End Norwich, who are waiting to hear from you. They too have been frustrated by the lack of noise this season and their main driver is to improve atmosphere at Carrow Road. They can't do it alone however, and by growing the numbers involved with their project, their cause can only be strengthened.
Get in touch, be it via social media or email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Together we can make Carrow Road the hostile environment for visiting teams that it should be.