There was a time when every game of English football had thousands of fans standing in spectator areas without seats throughout the match. But after the fans are crushed Hillsborough disaster of 1989, standing areas were banned as unsafe.
Still, many fans pinned indifferently to the days of the stand. And now, after several years, England’s top two football leagues will be allowed to reconnect permanent fields, with safeguards in place, Sports Ground Safety Authority, a government advisory board said on Wednesday.
In the past, standing fans were installed in sloping, concrete areas. Often there were more fans standing in the game than sitting.
It was an inexpensive way to watch the game, and the proximity to fellow enthusiasts often made for a great atmosphere. But the fields sometimes got rowdy, and especially after a goal, crowds of fans could knock people over.
During the peak of hooliganism in the 70s and 80s, fighting sometimes broke out between rival sets of fans. This led teams to erect fencing to separate standing fans from their competitors and sometimes from the field.
That fence made a powerful contribution to the Hillsborough disaster, when nearly 100 Liverpool fans were crushed to death on a crowded rooftop at the FA Cup semi-final in Sheffield.
Although standing was not a direct cause of the disaster – poor policing, according to inquiries – the government nevertheless banned standing at games and insisted that every spectator have a seat.
But for 30 years, many fans carry torches to stand up for sports. He said he missed the atmosphere and that it could be arranged more safely than standing. He also noted that many fans remained in their seats for a good portion of the game anyway.
Although the movement on the issue took decades, standing advocates have gathered momentum, and recent approval seems imminent. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which opened in 2019, was designed with two fields that can be quickly converted into so-called safe standing areas should this be allowed.
Teams from the top two divisions can apply now to start the standings area in January. But those areas will look very different from the exposed concrete slopes of old.
First, there will be seats that fold up, so fans can choose to sit if they want. In order to avoid the congestion often seen in the last century, no more than one fan for each seat would be admitted to the area.
In addition, metal rails will be installed between each row. Fans can count on them, and they’ll also help keep people in their lines, preventing humanity’s further fervor that could turn dangerous.
With success, SAFE STATUS has been implemented elsewhere in the world. German top-flight stadiums include thousands of spots for standers. Orlando City, LAFC and Minnesota are among the MLS teams with safe standing areas. In Britain, Glasgow’s Celtic began allowing a few thousand standees in the 2016–17 season.
“We are very pleased to claim victory for the FSA’s Safe Standing campaign,” said Kevin Miles, chief executive officer of the fan advocacy group Football Supporters Association. in a statement on Wednesday. “Today’s announcement is the result of prolonged and sustained publicity by football fans.”
Arsenal chief executive Vinay Venkatesham said on Wednesday that the club will meet with fans next week to discuss adding the standings area. “This is something we are looking at,” he said. “We need to see if there will be an impact, such as whether it will reduce capacity. But we will listen to what our fans say and find out what can be done.”
tariq paw Contributed reporting from London.