The subject still provokes raw emotion 27 years after the Hillsborough disaster, however clubs like Celtic and Borussia Dortmund are leading the way in showing the world how safe standing can only improve a fan’s experience of the beautiful game.
Football used to be a working class man’s sport, made by the fans for the fans. As time has passed though and the game has entered into the 21st century and the commercialization of the sport has spread like a virus. The Premier League, England’s first division is a global brand and phenomenon boasting the world’s best players, biggest stadia’s and along with it the largest payrolls. The Premier League is the ludacris world where Paul Pogba fetches a staggering £89m and this influx of money has cascaded down the tiers and affected today’s fans, people who are preyed on and treated as customers from money driven egotistic executives.
This scandalous attitude surrounding fans has led to every club in England slowly losing its personality and magic. Going to the game used to be about being on the terrace with total strangers and being united by one common trait: the love of your football club. It’s almost a bond that can only be described as tribalism. The culture of knowing every chant and singing your heart out for the full 90 minutes until your throat can take no more is beginning to vanish and it’s being replaced by a fake, tacky, and foreign atmosphere that’s sweeping across every stadium up and down the country.
It all comes to down to money, and the Premier League announced last year that the average Premier League ticket price is £31. To the minority this is completely affordable but to the majority it is completely unimaginable, and it is simply pricing people out of the game. Slowly clubs are starting to come to their senses and Stoke City and Newcastle United have recently targeted young fans with extremely cheap season tickets. Hull city offer the cheapest Premier League season ticket at £252 compared to the most expensive season ticket at a whopping £2,013 at Arsenal.
When fans are treated like customers they will act like them, and worryingly the most noise generated by fans on a match day derives from their discontent at the product they are paying to view, creating a chorus of boos and a toxic atmosphere. Unfortunately the Premier League’s fanaticism with money is not only set to continue but to increase in years to come and therefore there is only one solution to fight against the sterilization of our most adored football clubs: safe-standing needs to make a return.
When the words “safe-standing” are mentioned, large towering cages trapping fans and crumbling terraces come to mind but the modern alternative couldn’t be more chalk and cheese. Celtic has taken the first positive strides and has set the example on how to successfully reintegrate safe-standing into the UK. The atmosphere up at Celtic Park is electric and deafening come match day, and this is a reminder of the extraordinary positive boost fans can give to their players. Every club in Germany also has adopted safe standing and other leagues like Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Belgium, and Norway have also followed suit.
Celtic has rail seats and these are the most likely safe standing option to be introduced to the wider UK and the benefits are astounding. It is a solution to the ticket pricing issue that the modern day fans face with the abroad ticket prices for safe-standing areas costing lower than in seated areas, consequently making the stadiums more socially inclusive for the working class, football’s forgotten men and women. The Premier League’s buoyant fans aiming to regain their club’s identity through the terraces would be able to congregate and create an area where all the fans that want to create an atmosphere can gather at. Nine out of ten supporters back the safe standing initiative, and with the recent advancements ensuring its safety, surely it’s a no brainer to bring it back?
The issue unfortunately is not as straight forward as that, with the past inevitably haunting the future. The tragedy of the Hillsborough disaster affected thousands and the event will never be forgotten. Nobody should go to watch a football game and later not return. Maybe safe standing will forever be seen as something of the past, but with the utmost improvements to the safety of the stadiums I think it’s the only way the fans can rise up against modern football and begin to become fans again, not customers. Fight to take football back. Fight for safe standing.