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Stadium reforms: away fan positioning to change and safe standing proposed

Richard Scudamore chair of the Premier League has issued a diktat to the effect that at least one block of away supporters must be in a lower tier section approaching the pitch (or in the case of the Tax Payers Stadium, within a few hundred yards of the pitch).

This announcement was an opportunity for him to talk about what clubs should be doing to stop the curse of flares being brought into grounds, but he failed to mention that problem.

The new regulation doesn’t affect Arsenal of course, where all away fans are placed in the lower tier, but Sunderland is certainly one that has upper tier only.  When the Stadium of Light first opened we were placed behind the goal on the lower tier, but this has been changed.

Richard Scudamore said, “Pitch-side is the easiest way of describing it but clearly [in] some ground configurations there might be some gap between where the seats actually are, and there might be something else in between that and the pitch.”  In the Tax Payers Stadium it is a whacking great running track.

“It’s about atmosphere. One of the unique things about our game, particularly in England, is the amount of away fans and the noise they create.   When an away goal is scored, you want that atmosphere and interaction between the two sets of fans.”  Tottenham’s crumbling ground with the wonderful postcode London N17 OAP has the away support placed upstairs – I’ve no idea what the plans are for the rebuilt OAP ground.

Meanwhile the Premier League have agreed to consider the return of standing areas.

At the Emirates the whole of the lower north stand is a de facto standing area as is the away section and certainly if you try to sit anywhere much in either of these zones you won’t get to see anything, so in many ways we are just waiting for the law to catch up with reality.  Something it is often slow to do.

All-seater grounds were made compulsory in 1994 following the Hillsborough enquiry.  But one of the key points regularly missed in the hysteria over standing or not standing was that the Hillsborough enquiry did not blame the problem on standing.  It laid the blame on the people controlling the ground.   Indeed given that standing happens in most grounds lower tiers behind the goals, it is only the way in which people are allocated spaces that has changed.

Speaking on this topic Scudamore said, “We’re not immune to the fact that this is a topic and therefore it is in discussion with our clubs.   They are all looking at the issue and at some point it will come around our table and we will see if there’s a point at which we might open up discussions with government to see what their view is on it.

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“It’s very much individual clubs sensing for themselves where they are with it and we may or may not facilitate that discussion in the weeks and months to come.”

The only problem with allowing the law to catch up with reality is that this requires a vote in the House of Commons, and the government is currently rather more concerned discussing or not discussing leaving the European Union in Parliament with its kindred alleged trade deals.

The reason that no one takes up the issue that there is persistent standing at the moment is that the law simply says the grounds have to be all-seater.  It doesn’t actually say that people in the stadium have to sit.  So all that is needed is that a slightly different design of standing is required.  There can be seats there that simple are not used.   Just like now in fact.

However there is the Sports Grounds Safety Authority that undertakes to ensure compliance with its ground regulations.   But as we see at every game in every ground in the PL, the away support stand, and the home support behind the goals stand so I am not really sure if that august body actually does very much.

So we could either have a law change, or the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport could simply tell SGSA to change its regulations, or they could do nothing and just let the current situation continue.  Safe standing de facto in fact.

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12 comments to Stadium reforms: away fan positioning to change and safe standing proposed

  • Leon

    I’d like to see standing sections re introduced to our grounds. For me it’s the natural way to watch a game and is long overdue and as you point out takes place anyway.
    Re Hillsborough. It’s true that standing supporters were not the cause of the terrible events that day, but if they had been seated it would not have happened.

  • Xhaka'spassing

    Bring back safe standing.

    If you want to improve the atmosphere more you could also increase the % age of tickets given to the away support. Of course I understand why this will never happen and accept it.

    Bring back safe standing and do away with the constant international breaks as many of the games played are one way traffic. Some sort of seeding/two tiered competition really has to come in. It’s killing the players and clubs chances of succeeding.

    The clubs pay the players wages. We could be without two really key players for key games and this could cost us dear in terms of what we can achieve this season. We’re two players down and a game hasn’t been played yet.

    I understand Alexis needing to play in key WC qualifiers where competition is of a high standard and countries want their best players but risking him next week is deplorable.

    Why was Bellerin even playing for Spain U21 ?

    Can someone tell me why friendlies are being played this week ? It’s totally ridiculous.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    ”but if they had been seated it would not have happened”.

    The Hillsborough tredegy where many football fans mostly of the Liverpool fans base lost their lives would not have happened if the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield had been all seated Stadium, is what you believe would have been. Enh Leon? But if that be the case, why now the demand in some quarters seeking for a reintrodution of standing in the football stadia?

    Why then so?
    Is it that standing will make the Stadia to contain more fans in them which normally if all the fans are seated the Stadia will contain less fans, which is not a bad idea?

    And 2ndly, will standing in Stadia result in less cost in the price of ticket for the fans who opted to stand, which may not necessarily turned out to be case as the difference in the cost of ticket for standing and sitting may be marginal since the standing stands may be different from the former concrete ones to make standing safer. And it will cost some good money to do so?

    And 3rdly, will standing alongside sitting in the Stadia be securely safe and have the guarantees to prevent a repeat of crowd tredegy happening again in future in any Stadium across the UK?

  • Leon

    It’s obvious that if all those people had been seated they wouldn’t have been crushed in the way that they were.
    I assume from what I’ve seen in recent years that people consider that modern stadia are now safe enough to have dedicated standing areas.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Okay Leon.
    Let’s hope & pray when standing is reintroduced in the Stadia, the right thing will be done by the authority concern which will block reoccurrence of lost of lives in any football Stadium in the land.

    Have we in a big error committing thrown away Sergy Gnabry? After his 3 goals exploits for Germany at the last time of my checking the score-line, I ask myself this question, why has Le Prof allowed Gnabry to go, and on the cheap for that matter? What is it for somethings Gnabry has asked for which Le Prof didn’t consent to that led to Gnabry forcing his way out of Arsenal? Could it be he has asked for a guarantee for a regular starting playing time in the 1st team and Le Prof refused to grant him such a big request? Or is it a high wages demand related issue by him which Arsenal have refused to grant him? Or he just want to go back home to Germany because he’s not happy at Arsenal & in London?

    Something has be the matter that we didn’t know that led to Gnabry leaving us. We can certainly do with him now in our season if we have him, won’t we?

  • Andrew Crawshaw


    We didn’t want Gnabry to go and tried to keep him. He forced the issue and has moved to a less than top ranked German club. Three goals against San Marino is no guarantee of any kind of future greatness.

    Once players return from injury he would have been probably fourth choice for wide attacking player behind Theo, The Ox and Wellbeck. Game time would be very limited and he clearly didn’t fancy his chances of getting ahead of them.

  • para

    Concerning Gnabry:
    I would not doubt that there is some kind of “1st offer if sold” clause or something like that?
    Anyway he probably finds Germany a better country to live in, having being born there?

  • para

    On the flares matter:
    Lewandowski was almost hurt by a thrown flare.
    I suppose if he was hurt then there would be cries of “something should be done” bla bla bla.
    But he’s ok, so carry on as usual.

  • Norman14

    para – re: Lewandowski

    It appears the game was stopped for 10 minutes while he received treatment.

    What was the treatment for? – the flare landed near him, not on him. He appeared “groggy” reports said. Was it more to do with ear damage rather than actually injury?

    Last season, and even more so this season, there appears to be an increase in the incidence of “head injury” being ignored by referees unless the game is stopped by the players. I was always under the impression that referees were bound to stop the game at the first sign of a potential head injury.

    The problems with English football are not in the stands, they are on the pitch and within governance.

    The police investigation into a case of “bribery” announced yesterday, has quickly disappeared from our media today. Why is that and why haven’t the FA made a statement? Is it because the investigation involves a currently employed Manager?

    My take on the stadium issue is that it is a smoke screen, to stop the more serious problems being discussed.

  • para

    Everything is possible with those that dictate,they do tend to go beyond the realms of sanity quite a lot.

  • Robido

    Safe standing:
    I would agree that from my seat it seems that the north end downstairs is effectively standing, and that the away fans seldom sit.

    Those fortunate enough to see the Arsenal away could add evidence to what happens. My only away game (at Fulham) was standing all game and was very safe as we were at designated seats and the back of the seat in front was quite high preventing us from stumbling forwards even after a few jars and us scoring a goal.

    Crowd dynamics as confirmed by an arsenal steward confirmed that if everyone stands they are effectively powerless to prevent it.

    I understand that away fans did use the upper tier at the Emirates but that this proved to be too dangerous (Chelsea game brought it to a head?) given the steepness of the seats and the consequences of a mishap.

    Standing areas would concentrate the “choir” to the benefit of all but would have to be clearly designated as they may not be attractive to the less flamboyant or smaller of stature.

    It must surely be less disruptive and safer for these to be present by design rather than by mass disregard of safety rules.?

  • Menace

    The disaster at Hillsborough was partly due to the fact that there was no escape from the pressure due to fencing. Modern stadia could have sectioned off areas for standing with run off areas from the front for emergency personnel. The staggered barriers as in the past would control some of the pressure situations. The entry prices would have to be lower than seating & limited to known numbers. A smaller standing area for away fans could also be created.

    The key to all of these systems is controlled recorded entry so that everyone in the stadiums standing section can be identified. No ID, no entry! should be the mantra for all standing fans. In theory season ticket holders can all be identified but that is not completely true as some tickets are lent or sold to ‘unknowns’ for a match.