9 May ~ The Football Supporters Federation (FSF) launched a campaign at the end of March to reinstate terraces to top-flight football in England. They quoted a survey of their members that shows nine out of ten would be in favour of a return to standing. Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster has tabled a Private Member’s bill to allow clubs safe standing areas, which is due to be heard in parliament on June 17. Is the atmosphere really better on terraces? The German model is the one most frequently advocated by those in favour of an English reintroduction. I recently watched a match from on Borussia Dortmund’s Sudplatz, the largest all-standing area in Europe and known as the "yellow wall".

The terraces begin to fill up hours before kick-off. However during the game the crowd is exceptionally well mannered. There is pandemonium when the goals go in, but there is little aggression in evidence. The German stands also have barriers every couple of rows to ensure crushes do not develop and there is none of the jostling and surges that would propel you bodily from the rear of the crowd to the front, and back again. Certainly this is a far cry from my own memories of the Hotel End in Northampton’s old County Ground. The best reason given by the FSF or any other pro-standing campaigner has to be simply that more fans will get to watch their team play – Dortmund sell out 80,000 every week, with very cheap standing tickets.

It is not the first time the reintroduction of terracing has been mooted. In 2000, the sports minister Kate Hoey, impressed by Hamburg’s Volparkstadion, tried to gain support for the idea, but it swiftly foundered. Current incumbent Hugh Robertson is not so sanguine – he was quoted in the media as saying that should the move backfire his "head would be on a spike on London Bridge" – while the Hillsborough victim family groups continue to oppose the move.

The Premier League refuses to back the campaign, with their spokesman stating that seating is "safer" and that all-seat stadiums have "encouraged more women and children to go to games". Cursory consideration gives these arguments little credence. The Taylor Report didn’t focus blame on the terraces themselves but on their state of repair and the management of the crowd; the number of women and children on Dortmund’s terraces suggests that it is something other than having a nice comfy seat that has encouraged them to watch. Perhaps the broader demographic and behavioural changes in football crowds might have something to do with it.

A cynic might argue that the League is more concerned with the revenue that it can squeeze out of all-seat stadiums. It cost €15 (£13) to watch the new German champions canter to a 3-0 victory over mid-table Freiburg, and despite the extra capacity allowed by standing zones, the numbers might not add up for the wealthier clubs. Additionally, of course, the clubs will have to pay in the first place for the conversion. So the two groups with the power to implement a change in the law have no vested interest in so doing – the Premier League sees no profit while the government sees a political risk. For everyone but the FSF and nine out of ten of their members, however, it seems to be a no-brainer. Ross Gibson

Comments (10)
Comment by Barnstoneworth 2011-05-09 12:57:04

"all-seat stadiums have encouraged more women and children to go to games." Nobody's suggesting ripping out all the seats - what is being proposed will give people a choice whether to sit or stand. I've taken my kids to matches where spectators have stood in seating areas and they either haven't been able to see or they've had to stand on seats, which really isn't safe. Enabling those who wish to stand to do so and leaving the seated areas for those who prefer to sit will resolve this problem far more effectively than tannoy announcements and stewards.

Comment by sjmaskell 2011-05-09 14:47:31

Anecdotal evidence I am collecting seems to back Barnstoneworth up to a great degree.

One of the biggest causes of aggression on the terraces would appear to be aggressive or inappropriate stewarding. Fans tend to self-police on the whole and if stewards at some clubs were less interested in preserving their egos and more interested in fans enjoying a match there would be less flash-points at lively games.

I would recommend anyone to go to Doncaster (not my club) and see how the stewards operate there. Class.

Comment by tempestinaflathat 2011-05-09 15:28:01

Although I'm in favour of re-introducing terracing, let's not kid ourselves that prices would go down. There's simply no motivation for clubs to do that; if anything, they may even go up a little, clubs complaining that they've had to spend extra to appease the fans.

Comment by Janik 2011-05-09 16:03:26

I would like more depth on the views of the Hillsbrough families than "the Hillsborough victim family groups continue to oppose the move". What are their arguments against standing? It seems unlikely they would be easy to dismiss as cynical...

Comment by Lincoln 2011-05-09 17:46:22

I don't like standing for prolonged periods, I don't like being really close to the pillock who swears at the ref the whole game, and, at under 6ft, I enjoy being able to see the game. All reasons I would rather keep seating.

Comment by MoeTheBarman 2011-05-09 18:41:29

Terracing allows you to move from the 'pillock who swears' surely?

With respect to the Hillsbrough families, how I wish to watch a football match is none of their business. Watching a non-league team has enabled me to stand at games for the last nine seasons and I love it. When we have been stuck in a seated area, we all stand anyway.

Comment by Liffrok 2011-05-09 21:11:46

That's the crux isn't it? If a large group of fans want to stand, they'll stand, no matter what the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 says. Whether it's right or wrong is a different matter. As a Plymouth Argyle fan, I've noticed that when a club brings a large support to Home Park the back half stand throughout and the front half sit - a not unreasonable compromise in my opinion.

Comment by madmickyf 2011-05-10 05:30:56

Lincoln wrote "I enjoy being able to see the game". Surely as a Lincoln City fan that can't have been true this past season?

Seriously I don't know why there is so much media hysteria about bringing back standing at football matches. Isn't it about giving choice to supporters about whether they want to to stand or not?

Comment by jameswba 2011-05-10 08:58:22

Exactly, I'd say choice is the key. I guess I'm not alone in varying my preferences - sometimes I like to stand, sometimes to sit.

I do recall being a bit confused back in 2000, when Kate Hooey and the Safe Standing Campaign were very active in this matter, because, while using Dortmund's Sudplatz as their model of how terraces should work, they also kept on about bringing 'small terraced areas', with capacities of 2,000-3,000 back to English grounds.

What do we envisage now then? Completely re-terracing the Kop, Holte End etc? Or small terraced paddocks in front of bigger seating areas? Or both, like Germany?

Comment by Efficient Baxter 2011-05-10 14:54:17

What we've got now is a fudge anyway. Certainly away fans will stand if they want to and no amount of stewarding will stop them. This causes problems for the fans who are elderly/infirm/children who are forced to stand or can't see the game.
Give people an option to stand because they do it anyway. Surely it would be safer and cause less aggro if they had a dedicated area in which to do it?

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