|Standing – A Matter of Choice?|
Written by Official_ITSC on Tuesday, 22nd Nov 2016 09:34
In a first blog for TWTD, the Official Supporters Club outlines its position on the reintroduction of standing.
On 17th June 2017, Portman Road will welcome Elton John again and thousands will sing aloud “I’m still standing after all this time”. Ironic, given that a football stadium is one place where standing is not permitted, at least not when it is being used for its primary purpose.
The football authorities are beginning to realise that a reintroduction of standing areas might make sense – it works in Germany of course, and there’s a trial currently under way at Celtic. In Leagues One and Two standing never disappeared, and it’s fine for rugby crowds and rock concerts!
This blog does not rehearse old arguments going back to a different era a generation ago. Instead, let’s look at the issue of standing from today’s perspective. The Supporters Club receives a lot of feedback (OK, complaints) about standing so we decided it’s time to form a view and make it known.
Right now, we have the worst of all worlds. People who want to stand can only do so if the club ignores the rule of law. We are lucky that the attitude of ITFC has been to take a lenient view of those who stand in front of their seats in the Sir Bobby Robson Stand lower, provided the aisles and exits remain clear and it’s important to note that fan behaviour has played a part in that laissez-faire attitude.
Only around 10 per cent of the home crowd choose to stand, but that’s an important, and vocal, minority. Everyone else sits, and seems happy to do so.
At away games, it can get quite unpleasant. Where the away end is not full, there’s a convention that those who want to stand will go to the back and once again that tends to be around 10 per cent of the away crowd, never more than 20 per cent. That way, the 80 - 90 per cent who want to sit can do so.
At sold out away games, though, the minority still insist on standing, leading to arguments and sometimes worse with stewards and with their own fans. Those who want to sit cannot and those who want to stand feel aggrieved and discriminated against.
Of course, the discrimination is actually against the elderly, children and anyone below about 6 ft tall, whose view is obscured – they have a right to sit, but there seems no desire on the part of football to allow that right to be enjoyed. Many fans have stopped going to away games because of the fear of having to stand and not being able to see.
Luckily there is a simple solution in the short-term and a not-too-difficult solution in the longer term.
First the short-term, by which we mean ‘now’. There are a couple of ways of addressing the away match problem, other than by ejecting those who insist on standing. Both require a bit of understanding and cooperation from fans. The first is to introduce the option to buy a ‘singing’ ticket, which we all know is football code for ‘standing’.
Those tickets would be the back few rows at any away game – let’s start with, say, 20 per cent of the capacity of the away end. ITFC would make it clear to the home club that people in the back rows are more likely to stand and those below that section will expect to sit.
A second option, perhaps if the first is trialed and does not work, would be to turn the proposal around, and give the majority the option to buy a ‘seat required’ ticket, which would be the bottom 80 per cent of the away end and would come with a short note that can be shown to any steward pointing out that there is a right to sit. Again, the host club would be informed in advance of this approach.
But we need a longer-term solution too. In the not-too-distant future, there is likely to be a change of law and some form of standing will be permitted once again. The Premier League is likely to require the German rail seating arrangement, so the stand can be easily converted to all-seater for Champions League and Europa League games.
That will be prohibitively expensive for the majority of Championship clubs. The EFL already permits standing on old-fashioned terraces of course in Leagues One and Two – there is no reason why they could not at least permit the creation of standing areas that have a rail in front of every single row, eliminating the risk of crush, and facilitating conversion to rail seating upon promotion.
This could work for away ends too – ideally the bottom few rows would be standing, pretty much like it used to be at most grounds, and how it still is at Brentford, for example. Though it could work OK with the standing area above, a bit like the old Ninian Park, Cardiff.
However it is operated – by convention, by rail, by rail seat – we would end up with the best of both worlds. People who want to stand will be able to do so. People who want to sit will be able to do so. I am convinced that will encourage more fans to travel away to support their club, with financial benefits to the home club.
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