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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.

Just like our Fanzone was an idea long in the coming, but now seems a natural part of the ITFC matchday experience, so we expect the issue of standing to be one that – in future years – we’ll wonder why it took so long to come about.

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

TractorWood added 11:05 - Nov 22
10% stand? That would be 1,500. Surely the lower North is more than that. I also think the tone of the sold out away game point is wrong. People stand because they want to and if the majority are doing so, you can do so without worrying about others. I often see people awkwardly moving after releasing they are in with people who want to sit.

The tone of this seems to be reluctant acceptance as oppose to active engagement of an already disillusioned fanbase.


Oldsmoker added 11:34 - Nov 22
Any door-to-door salesman will tell you to get your foot in the door. That way you can negotiate, you don't have to have the door all the way open. This is a good starting point - an opening gambit. The suggestions are reasonable and controllable. If you go for the "we want it all" option from the start the resistance will be too much and you won't get anywhere.
I think the "seat required" approach rather than the "standing demanded"
approach is a fresh and very good idea.

TractorCam added 13:07 - Nov 22
Lower bobby should definitely be safe standing as everybody stands in there anyway. Away ends all around the country should have the option of standing/seating like Brentford

TractorCam added 13:13 - Nov 22
Very good proposals I must add, would like to see this be implicated to the club

JimmyJooJarJee added 14:37 - Nov 22
Although TWTD readership may not be completely representative of Town supporters, the past two end-of-season TWTD questionnaires have put supporters in favour of standing areas at 73% - around three-quarters of respondents. The club needs to listen to this.

Blue_Moses added 16:36 - Nov 22
I would think it's more than 10% at both home and away games?

rickw added 10:29 - Nov 23
SBR lower should be standing, you could always have the first 2-3 rows still seats for perhaps elderly or less abled fans who want to stay there but can't stand for the whole match.

I would say 50% of away fans would want to stand so as long as there's a choice and the seats are in front of the standing area it should work. Fans will also get an understanding that if there's no standing tickets left to buy seats at the back where it might be possible to stand.

Swn98 added 11:40 - Nov 23
I find it difficult to stand because of arthritis still go to away games most fans will shuffle around to help the young and elderly alike,it would be a great idea though if tickets were sold in a prioritised way those that want to stand at the back those that want to sit at the front.
With regards to SBR lower becoming official all standing doesn't there have to be a change of law for this to happen?
What with Brexit etc I think the govt are to preoccupied to repeal that law at the moment

TR11BLU added 15:02 - Nov 23
Much more than 10 - 20% of away fans prefer to stand, especially amongst the larger crowds.

Palestine added 11:11 - Nov 25
Great article - let's make it happen! Yeah, it could start with standing at the back, and as one above has said, others could book seats towards the back of the seating area knowing they can stand. If it is not full it's not an issue. I'm guessing at PR it's only the North Stand we need to worry about, so therefore sitters can sit anywhere else! Ultimately everyone standing, and singing and being lively is what will help create an atmosphere which the place badly needs. If Germany can do it safely it can be done safely here too.

My best memories of Portman Rd are in that promotion season where the away fans were half the North Stand and it was a fearsome cauldron! Sure some others on here know what I'm talking about...! Pretty intense for a small lad!

Slambo added 11:42 - Nov 25
Thank you so much for this - great that the club is trying to open an official dialogue with fans. Let's stop dragging our heels and make this happen, for crying out loud! There is absolutely no coherent argument whatsoever to not having standing. How the situation has got this far is beyond me...

My main concern is the type of standing areas that will be brought in (I say 'will': i'm pretty confident it's just a matter of time before this happens). People seem to think that Germany employs nothing but those rail seats, but that's not true. Most grounds still have 'old style' terracing, but with more and better placed crush rails and of course more diligent ticketing and turnstile control. THIS IS WHAT WE NEED!!! My fear is that the FA/Government/Premier League/EFL (whoever the hell makes the decisions these days) will compromise on this 'one ticket/one standing place' design which will be equally as restrictive as the current arrangement. I want to be able to move freely and stand with friends or enjoy different vantage points; and crucially, people who want to sing need to be able to congregate together. If and when we do this, let's do it properly...

Brownie added 07:31 - Nov 28
Giving fans the choice is always a good thing. Safe standing is something a lot of people want so if we can offer that then why not?
The law would need to be changed. Whether there is appetite for that will depend on how much public opinion is behind the idea. The only reason not to change it will be safety. However things are very different to previously - ticketing arrangements mean clubs can control the numbers in each stand which they couldn't before, turnstiles are better, policing & stewarding is also better & more informed & in general fan behaviour is better.
Personally I would rather have a seat but others wouldn't.
Great to see a move to offer more choice and while we are changing some laws lets change the one that stops people having a beer in view of the pitch. It is outdated & insulting so change that as well!

chripswich added 16:45 - Nov 29
Sounds like some good ideas BUT any chance that there could be a row of seats in SBR lower facing away from the pitch?..I'd grab one of those.

IpswichFuture added 12:47 - Dec 6
I would like to have my seat reclined at a 45 degree angle. That way I would have a much better view of the ball during the game.

yorksblue added 17:48 - Dec 20
Scousers would be upset by this, despite the kop seen on tv with fans standing. Hypocrites
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