Safe Standing. It will happen sooner than you think.

With plans for the new stadium seemingly dragging again, how would you feel about purpose-built standing areas being included in the revised designs?

Of course many of us already stand at the Lane – in the Park Lane or East Lower sections, for example – but technically we’re flouting the law doing so, and the rules as written discriminate against supporters who’d prefer to stand.

In recent months progress has been made by lobbyists and fan groups pushing for a change to the laws governing ‘safe standing’. The FSF’s campaign continues to grow and Jon Darch’s ‘Safe Standing Roadshow’ has taken the technology on tour to every corner of the country.

Politically, there are developments afoot too and it does seem like we are starting to push against an open door.

The Lib Dems have long been supportive of Safe Standing, and the Welsh Conservatives are now lobbying their counterparts in London for a change in policy – something considered unthinkable just 12 months ago. Labour remain a roadblock though, with Alan Milburn (who represents a Liverpool constituency) said to be viscerally opposed.

But the shift in the agenda is welcome and most sensible journalists – like Owen Gibson at the Guardian, or Ben Rumsby at the Telegraph – also now recognize that we no longer live in the 1980s. Stadiums have moved on and so should the law.

At present, a complicated blend of regulation and Government legislation forbids supporters of clubs in either the Premier League or the Football League Championship from standing to enjoy the action, whilst throughout the UK thousands of fans are perfectly entitled to stand at the rugby, horse racing and countless other major public events.

The FSF’s Safe Standing campaign has attracted the vocal support of a growing number of Premier League clubs – including Aston Villa, West Ham and Swansea City – and Spurs have also indicated that they’d be willing to include standing areas in the new stadium if the law was revised.

Furthermore, the Football League is also now mandated to lobby the government for a change in the law, following a recent consultation of its members.

So where’s the hold-up? A reluctant Minister, the Hillsborough Inquiry and an impending General Election are all factors which mean that progress is slower than anyone would like. But it will happen.

Conditions have changed dramatically since Lord Justice Taylor reported. Since then we have seen dramatic improvements in ticketing policy, policing methods and general safety in modern stadia. Gone are the days of sprawling terraces and high fences, replaced instead by modern stadia and micro-chip ticketing technology.

In short, the game is worlds apart from its problematic past.

Safe standing is operational and hugely popular on parts of the continent, providing a convenient, controlled environment for those who wish to watch the match on their feet. Most importantly, the various options available to clubs wishing to introduce designated standing are specially designed to ensure that those who do stand will be free to do so without obscuring the view of fans who prefer the ‘comfort’ of a cold plastic seat.

Let’s not forget that what’s being proposed here is not a return of the sprawling terraced areas of the past – but the introduction of sophisticated new standing sections which are proven in their safety and have received rave reviews from the continent. Just look at footage of Borussia Dortmund’s ‘yellow wall’…

A host of Premier League clubs are ready and willing to trial rail seating, if only they were given the chance – and discussions in Wales have meant that Swansea’s Liberty Stadium is being mooted as a potential venue after they signed up to the Welsh Tories’ call for a pilot there – CLICK

One of the unfortunate consequences of the era of new stadia has been the impression that they were all somehow designed by the same, painfully bland, architect; lots of cladding, thousands of identical plastic seats, cheap external panelling and, consequently, a distinct lack of atmosphere. I don’t want the new White Hart Lane to look like a car park on stilts.

There is another factor at play here. Rising ticket prices are alienating the sport’s traditional audience – the working classes.

I’ve covered this elsewhere on the blog, but ticket prices for Premier League matches have rocketed in recent years, pricing out all but the fiercely loyal and those with the money to splash the cash on a couple of tickets, a programme and a half-time burger; The BBCs recent ‘Price of Football’ survey revealed that some seats at Arsenal’s Emirates stadium can cost as much as £126, with Chelsea’s ‘cheapest day out’ being the most expensive in the league at £49.60 per person.

Meanwhile in Germany’s Bundesliga, where safe standing is already well established, you can pick up a ticket on the day to watch league champions Borussia Dortmund for just £12.30.

 

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(Above: The famous ‘Yellow Wall’ at Borussia Dortmund’s stadium which is safe standing) 

It is widely accepted that standing areas can lead to more reasonable ticket prices, something which could improve accessibility for those from more deprived communities to what was once held to be the “people’s game”. But let’s be clear, the case for standing isn’t underpinned by ethical economics alone.

And yet – on the safe standing issue – the voices of the firm majority of supporters continue to be ignored by football’s governing bodies, and an opportunity to make our game more inclusive and accessible is being missed.

Certainly safe standing is not a ‘silver-bullet’ that will cure all of the problems that blight the modern game – but its introduction would send a strong message to the long-suffering grassroots that their views are finally being heard.

It’s time for Spurs fans to make a stand – join the FSF’s campaign now.

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