|Safe to Stand?|
Written by SouperJim on Friday, 20th Dec 2013 12:15
Football is entertainment. Everyone who goes to football has the right to enjoy the match in a safe environment. Nobody should lose their life at a football match and I have the deepest sympathy for the friends and loved ones of those who have died in tragic circumstances.
As you've probably guessed from the title, this blog is about the reintroduction of standing areas at football grounds in England. This is my opinion on what for many people is a sensitive issue.
My seat at Portman Road is in the Sir Bobby Robson lower. I say it's my seat, but in truth I rarely sit in it. Not because I don't go to games, but because the culture within that area of the ground is to stand up during games. Football for me is very much about the atmosphere, being alongside our most vociferous fans, getting behind the team and trying to make a difference to the fortunes of our side in one of the only ways available to us supporters.
Anyone who has been in the former North Stand during a game will be familiar with both this culture and the running battles with the poor stewards whose job it is to try and encourage people to sit in their seats for at least part of the game.
I'm motivated to write this blog because on the radio today, the BBC are running a story on the campaign to re-introduce standing areas to our football stadia, with supporters groups from 12 Premier League teams now backing a trial. According to the story, the official line from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is that the government believes that all-seater stadia are "the best means to ensure the safety and security of fans".
I have never been at a football match where there has been an emergency and I hope I never will. However, I fail to see that if the worst ever happens, the presence of thousands of plastic seats will make the situation better. It seems fairly obvious to me that the presence of those seats will in fact make the situation worse, as they provide a significant obstacle to fans attempting to exit the stadium swiftly.
The opponents of the safer standing campaign often cite the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, which tragically cost 96 innocent football fans their lives. I find this practice rather disrespectful to the memory of those fans. 96 lost lives should not be a weapon with which to passive-aggressively beat your opponents into submission, the insinuation being that if you support safe standing then you somehow have no sympathy for those that died that day and that you approve of disorder at football matches.
The Taylor Report, the official inquiry into the disaster, concluded that the main reason for the disaster was "the failure of police control". Any level-headed individual who has seen the footage of that terrible event can only conclude that the presence of thousands of plastic seats would have resulted in greater loss of life.
The argument for all-seater stadia that is presented is that sitting is intrinsically safer than standing. It is not. All-seater stadia were designed to control the mob, fill our grounds with happy clappy middle class fans sitting nicely in their seats.
I have nothing against anyone who wishes to sit at a football match, but this backlash against the hooliganism of the 70s and 80s has slowly eroded the atmosphere at our football grounds. Football in this country has come a long way from the regular unrest seen at games prior to all-seater stadia. I would never advocate a return to those dark days, but the backlash has gone too far and has turned our national game from one of pride and passion to one of passivity and prawn sandwiches.
For those who haven't seen it, the Football Supporters' Federation put together this clip which does an excellent job of highlighting the benefits of safe standing;
I would urge Ipswich Town Ist, the independent Supporters' Trust, and indeed the football club itself to publicly back the FSF's Safe Standing Campaign. Because isn't it about time we had the freedom to choose to stand safely?
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