By Matthew Thompson
The publication of a report by the Football Supporters’ Federation calling for the reintroduction of standing areas at grounds has been criticised by the Hillsborough Families Campaign, a group representing relatives of the 96 Liverpool fans crushed to death in 1989. The problem at Hillsborough, however, was not standing but a lack of crowd control by police, and terraces divided into pens and fenced at the front, allowing no escape.
The implementation of the resulting Taylor Report that stipulated all-seater stadia for the top two divisions of English football coincided with the launch of the Premier League (with its Sky TV contract) and the pushing out of working-class supporters in favour of wealthier and corporate fans attracted to the newly fashionable game. By 1994, all-seater stadia with their reduced capacities had led to increased ticket prices and the end of paying on the turnstile, effectively excluding younger local fans. The end of terraces also affected the atmosphere inside grounds: sitting at games means fewer people sing, and those that do are unable to congregate.
All this has motivated the creation of a Safe Standing Campaign. As it points out, large standing terraces have been retained without problems both in Germany and at rugby league grounds here. Conversely, policing failures and ticketing issues have seen several major incidents at all-seater stadia across Europe in the last couple of months alone.
Of course some fans are unable to stand for ninety minutes, and there are others who prefer to sit. But there is no reason why seating could not be combined with modern, safe terraces for the majority of fans who want to stand.