It has always baffled me why safe standing has not existed for decades.
I appreciate the incident at Hillsborough – and other grounds – where over crowding caused a huge catastrophe and numerous more near misses. But standing was never really the problem.
The issue was always more than just fans standing.
It was too uncontrolled standing which led to too many fans being in a single area. And it was those fences. Caging fans in like animals. Add in poor ground organisation and police herding fans into grounds like cattle.
Football is a very different place now to the 80s. And has been for a long time.
Grounds are now “ticket only” with only the lower leagues offering pay-on-the-gate.
Fans have their allocated seat, capacities are capped, and there are no fences between fans and the pitch.
I have been standing in away ends for over a decade and it has never felt unsafe or over crowded.
It is actually safer to have safe standing sections, with the specific rail seats rather than having fans stand in front of regular seats.
A number of clubs have been pushing for safe standing for numerous years. Sadly Arsenal have not been one of them.
When Tottenham built their new ground, they specifically designated a safe standing area.
Wolves were the first to install the rail seating and have been followed by other clubs including the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool.
It is sad that Arsenal seem to show no interest in safe standing. They could easily make the entire North Bank end safe to stand in.
They could have a one year of moving seats where anyone in the area who did not want to stand would be moved elsewhere in the stadium, and those elsewhere who want to stand being able to replace them.
For example I sit in block 3. I would be interested in standing so would apply to move to that area. My seat would then be swapped with someone in that area who does not want to stand.
Same price. No issues.
Safe standing actually slightly reduces capacities, and there is a cost associated with installing the new seats. And this is probably why Arsenal are reluctant to implement the changes.
We know our club does not really care about match going fans, and the main focus is on maximising revenue.
From their point of view, spending money on something that generates less money than the existing set up makes zero sense. And from a business point of view they are right.
But football clubs need to be more then a business.
Owners should be custodians of the club doing what benefits the most important group of fans – the match going fans. And if that means spending a couple of million installing safe standing which loses the club a couple of million a year. Well it is not really a big deal.
It is brilliant that standing at football is returning. But I fear Arsenal will never implement it.
Drinking in the stand
Like with the lack of standing, not being able to drink in the view of the pitch has always been a bit silly.
Again, it all comes from the fall-out of Hillsborough.
Fans were labelled as drunken louts and it led to a lot of restrictions post-the disaster.
But numerous investigations and reports have highlighted bigger issues in football grounds at the time beyond just fan behaviour.
It is too easy for the press to label football fans in a poor light. That fans like me who like a beer are booze-fuelled thugs. This is simply not the case.
At rugby, at cricket, you can drink.
I drink more at cricket than I do at football. At England India at the Oval the other week I do not remember the final sessions play.
Bottle of vodka, bottle of gin and a lot of beer was consumed over the days play.
90 minutes of football limits how much a supporter will drink in the ground.
If they are going to end up drunk and disorderly, it will be due to how much they have consumed before entering the ground – not what they have drunk inside.
By drinking in view of the pitch, you are having one, maybe 2 more beers. If that. It really is not a big issue.
What I would do if drinking in your seat was re-introduced is still have the bars shut between 5 minutes before kick off and 35 minutes.
That then limits people getting up and down throughout the game to get another beer.
So you grab your beer before kick off. That does the job for the first half and you are not interrupting the flow of the crowd 20 minutes in to grab yourself and your mate a second one.
Twickenham has a huge problem with what they label a “flowing crowd” where people are constantly in and our grabbing a beer. For me this is not helpful to the atmosphere and will damage peoples enjoyment of the game.
Let us drink in the stands, but ensure that people going backwards and forwards during the 90 minutes is limited.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments…
Does it really reduce capacity? I thought it only reduced capacity on European nights when you had to convert the area back into all seater to meet UEFA regulations. I read an article covering German and (I think) Dutch stadiums and it said that for every seat, you got 1.8 people into the safe standing area. So 10k became 18k. If I`m right, I`d make the entire bottom tier safe standing and slash ticket prices. Of course, we`d probably have to upgrade the transport system for matchdays so you`d have to take the extra costs of that into account but I`d still imagine it being good long term business. If I`m wrong, then we`re stuck with what we`ve got because the club aint gonna to cost themselves dough.