In late 2016, the 20 clubs of the Premier League held talks discussing the possibility of bringing back standing sections to football stadiums. This is a controversial topic that undoubtedly has vocal supporters on both sides. But recently there has been a resurgence in the popularity of standing. In the Scottish Premier League, Celtic became the UK’s first club to introduce rail seats and the appetite for something similar in England is increasing.
Others contend that standing can lead to an atmosphere of hooliganism and point to the security failings of the past. Let’s have a look at whether we should bring back standing sections in football stadiums or if it’s best to leave standing at football matches in the history books.
Here, Lloyd Wells – a freelance blogger working with safe standing scaffolding specialist Precipitous takes a look at the pros, cons and potential resistance factors to the reintegration of standing at Premier League football matches.
The benefits of standing
Many of football fans’ biggest current complaints at games are actually ones that standing in stadiums can address. Firstly, standing sections tend to allow for cheaper tickets as you can fit a higher density of supporters into a standing section. Not only does that open up the opportunity for more people to come and support a club, it also means that it is no longer such an expensive prospect to watch a football match.
In turn, this deals with another common complaint: the atmosphere. Some fans believe that standing up makes for a far better atmosphere within the stadium. And it’s currently that case that fans are often asked to sit down by stewards or even police if they stand in a seated section. This is often a source of tension and friction at games, which can be part of why standing has such a bad reputation.
The option for standing sections means that those who wish to sit will not need to have their view obstructed by those who want to stand. This should mean a better experience for everyone attending the game.
Up until recently the idea of standing in stadiums in the UK was dismissed off-hand, usually due to the perception of safety concerns. But this is something of a misrepresentation of standing sections. Unfortunately, in the UK, there are still painful memories of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, when 96 Liverpool football fans were killed in a crush inside a standing-only section. It was this disaster that ultimately led to the ban on standing sections and it’s also the reason why some fans and clubs harbour reservations about reintroducing them.
It should be noted, of course, that subsequent investigations have shown major failings by the police in terms of keeping these pens safe. Nevertheless, there’s a risk that many fans may not trust the idea of using standing sections at least initially.
Equally, there may be some pushback from clubs as current stadiums will be needed to be retrofitted in order to bring in the new standing sections. This needn’t be something to worry about, however, as it is the choice of each club and wouldn’t be something that would be forced on any stadium.
It is true that current UEFA regulations state that matches in European competitions have to be played in all-seated stadiums, so even if the FA or the Premier League changed their rules, there would still be issues for any team competing in Europe. However, the popular option of rail seats can be converted from standing to seated – many clubs already do this in Europe.
Who supports standing?
You only need to watch a football match to see the popularity of standing. Many fans will spend the majority of the match standing up, even though they have seats. Surveys of football fans overwhelmingly suggest that they support the option to stand or sit.
And you might think that standing is something that perhaps fans might be in favour of, but that clubs are unwilling to get behind. But actually, there are many clubs across the whole of the British football system that are vociferous supporters of the concept. Premier League sides Crystal Palace and Swansea City have been in favour of the move to allow standing for a long time. Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have also incorporated the potential for standing areas in their new stadium designs.
Ultimately then it is clear that there is substantial support and very little getting in the way. Perhaps we can expect to see trials of a new system of the next few years.