'Safe' Standing Hits News Again
Over the weekend one newspaper issued details of a survey, albeit a limited one, into the return to standing, or 'safe' standing at our football stadia.
The Football Supporters Federation have campaigned for some time for Safety Advisory Groups and even the Football Licensing Authority to give serious consideration to allowing Clubs' dedicated supporters to stand. It helps create an atmosphere and could in some ways increase match day attendances.
They have examined the concept of rail seating, which is used at some grounds in Germany. This is where a seast folds up into a barrier rail, presenting the seatholder with a choice of whether to sit or stand. It also covers the UEFA directive that participants in its competitions need to have all-seater stadia on UEFA match days.
There are a number of issues around this. First of all Clubs have spent enormous amounts of money in converting old stadia, as in the case of Stretford, West Brom and Everton from a mix of seats and standing to exclusively seated areas and those with new-build stadia such as City and Arsenal have had the stadium constructed in such a way that the 'rake', i.e. the degree of steepness of the seating decks, make it almost impossible to reinstate standing as it is considered to be too steep.
The concept of German-style rail seating simply won't work on even the newer stadia in this country because the seating rows are not wide enough and therefore it would be a major civil engineering project at each stadium. Also the concourse areas which house the food and drink concessions are built to a pre-determined size based upon the maximum number of people expectedin those areas. If you were to increase attendances by allowing standing, the bar areas would not be able to cope with the demands at half time, not would toilet areas.
There are no statistics that tell us that it is unsafe to stand in a seated area, especially on say Level One at the Etihad. It would however be considered to be dangerous on Level 2 and Level 3 based upon the steepness.
At their Autumn Conference last week the Football Safety Officers Association, members of which have the direct responsibility of ensuring that the match day experience passes without safety problems, entered into a lively debate with Peter Dakin from the FSF.
In a session hosted by Professor Steve Frosdick, Peter put forward a number of issues and reasons why the football safety authorities and local authorities should consider the return to standing at Premier League and Championship grounds. However many of the Safety Officers came back with the reasons why not, many of which I have already discussed.
In short, we cannot expect cash-strapped clubs to invest in the prospect of introducing these safe standing areas, based upon the cost alone,especially when structural changes would be needed.
Clubs that have newer stadia and maybe have some cash wouldn't be able to put these systems in because their newer stadium was built to a different profile which in unsuitable for standing.
The debate will go on and on, there is no doubt about that, but the practicalities are that it won't happen.