30 September 2012

Backing the Safe Standing Campaign

Safely Stand-up for what's right
The Safe Standing Campaign is one that aims to bring standing areas back to the top two tiers of English football. The e-petition currently stands at 15,115 signatures, but with the power of the internet this number could be past 100,000 in no time at all. If this milestone is reached then the matter could then get debated in the House of Commons. Not only is change distinctly possible, but it's needed. And here's why.

All-seater stadiums were made compulsory in the aftermath of the Hillsborough tragedy. No-one argued at the time, and rightly so. 96 lives had been lost and if all-seater stadiums were what the government thought it would take to stop that from happening again, then so be it. Despite the Taylor Report explicitly mentioning poor policing and overcrowding as contributing factors, standing in football was turned into the scapegoat. Any future movement towards reintroducing standing would face an uphill battle. And that's what we've got on our hands today. Such deeply founded prejudices are hard to fight against. But so is reason. 

The most common misconception is that standing at football is simply unsafe. Images of crowd surges, overly aggressive fans and general crowd trouble are inexorably linked with standing at football - but the availability heuristic is no match for the facts. The Bundesliga, one of the biggest leagues in Europe, has had safe standing areas for years. The league is one of the best attended in the World, but also, crucially, has a faultless safety record. This demonstrates two things: that standing can be perfectly safe and that it is more socially inclusive. Standing areas mean lower ticket prices mean more people can afford to go the football. Football would once again become affordable for the proverbial "Dads and Lads" if standing areas were to be reintroduced, games would be sold out more often, the country's empty stadiums would start getting filled again. 

But the crux of the issue is nothing to do with economics and nothing to do with the clubs' financial accounts, it's simply about fans having a good time. Standing areas used to be synonymous with the football. They were part of what made it such a special experience.  More noise, more excitement, better atmosphere. The atmosphere in modern stadia has been noticably declining over the past few years and the Safe Standing campaign is the ready made way to halt that decline and to make football fun again.

But of course, standing isn't for everyone. The elderly, the disabled and the young shouldn't be forced to have their view of the pitch blocked by an obnoxious fat bloke, for example. Many falsely assume that the campaign only thinks about those that wish to stand, when in actual fact it is just as much about improving the match-day experience for everyone. The idea is to give all fans a choice between sitting and standing. Standers with standers, sitters with sitters. There would be far less unecessary friction between fans of the same team who want to enjoy the football in different ways.

The E-petition doesn't want to force clubs to have standing areas, it merely wants to give them the option. Once legalized, all clubs would be able to make the choice to develop Safe Standing areas when the time was right for them. Several Premier League clubs have already expressed interest in building safe standing areas into their stadiums, but as it stands, they are unable to do so. We can change that. The more pressure we can put on the government to force the change through, the better. It only takes a minute, and every signature really does help. Sign the Football Supporters' Federation E-Petition. Support Safe Standing in football and bring football back to life.

"It's safe & creates a better atmosphere.what's not to like?!" Robbie, Fulham fan. 
"It can be done. Look at Germany. Football is dying through all seater stadia. Bring back standing, and you'll bring back the attendances." Matt, Swansea fan.
"English football should take a look at German football. One of the most enjoyable football spectating countries in the world." Gary, Leeds fan. 
"Hopefully common sense will prevail & standing will be allowed." Kieron, Southampton fan.
"Seating and high ticket prices are killing the grassroots support for top clubs, and deadening the atmosphere at larger grounds. Safe standing is commerically and pratically viable, and deserves to be considered as a measure to improve the matchday experience, and access to top flight football for working class fans." Michael, Chelsea fan.
For more information on the matter, and to see more opinions of those who have signed the petition, browse this section of the Football Supporters' Foundation website.

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