One of the most shocking days I have spent in a football ground was at Highbury as news gradually filtered through of what exactly had happened at Hillsborough on that fateful day.

Happily football grounds, including St.James’ Park, are much safer places these days as the police have largely got their act together, grounds are better designed and some would argue, thanks also to the introduction of all-seater stadiums.

A report released by IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health) argues against the reintroduction of safe standing at English top level grounds.

At no point though do they explain why they aren’t therefore arguing for similar stringent measures at Rugby League grounds, or the success of standing areas in Germany with regard to fan choice, prices and atmosphere.

Similarly, while the views of Liverpool fans quite naturally should be respected, it is totally unbalanced to not have a pro-standing viewpoint included as well as the anti-stance of the Hillsborough Family Group.

The IOSH Report:

Sports fans should be seated to watch games at large stadia, a leading health and safety body warned today (22 February), as a new poll revealed one in three people had been caught up in a crowd surge at a major sporting or music event.

Of the 3,000 surveyed by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), 34 percent said they had experienced a crowd surge or collapse – where people push forward en masse.

As the debate continues surrounding the reintroduction of terracing at top-flight football grounds, IOSH said terraces should not be reintroduced in Championship and Premier League football stadia – a call backed today by the Hillsborough Family Support Group.

Group chair of IOSH, John Holden, said: “Safe seating should be provided wherever possible instead of standing areas to prevent any chance of crowd surges.

“While smaller terraces may pose less of a risk, it’s a known fact that it’s safer to sit than stand, especially where large numbers of people are in the same area. By allowing people to sit down they have their own safety-zone in which they can safely support their team without the threat of being pushed, trampled on or crushed.

Only 43 percent interviewed in the poll said enough had been done to improve health and safety in sports stadia since the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, in which 96 football fans died.

At the end of December it was announced that the Scottish Premier League had been given the green light to pilot safe-standing areas within their stadiums.

Mr Holden added: “This is a big decision to have made and safety needs to remain paramount.

“Since the banning of terraces in the Championship and Premier League, there have been no reoccurrences, thank goodness, of the devastating scenes we saw during the football disasters of the 80s.

“Where terraces exist, stadium and health and safety managers, need to ensure they’re designed to the specifications set-out in the industry’s Green Guide – it’s vital that these terraces are maintained to the highest possible standard, to ensure spectators aren’t exposed to unnecessary risk.”

In 1989, 96 people were killed and 766 injured at Sheffield Wednesday’s football ground as a result of poor crowd control among other factors. The disaster lead to the Taylor report and terracing being banned from larger football stadiums.

The Hillsborough Family Support Group – families of a number of the victims of the disaster – believes that “under no circumstances” should terracing be reintroduced.

Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who lost her 18-year-old son James in the tragedy, said: “There should be no terracing brought back to English League football.

“We’ve moved on since the 80s when football fans were treated like cattle. Fans feel safer and families can go to games, and be 99.9 percent certain they will go home safe – the legacy left behind by the deaths at Hillsborough is everyone’s safety.

“Those who want to forget what happened could end up reliving it again if standing was brought back. Why would people want to take 10 steps back, when sports ground safety has now gone forwards.

“This is not an emotional mother speaking – it’s too late for our 96. This is about being a mother and having grandchildren and looking after their future.” 

  • Andy C01

    For starters the report should not group music events and football games into the same group as crowd behaviour differs significantly. Also the tone of the lady quoted regarding the hills borough 96 makes it sound as if people will be forced to stand when in truth it will obviously be optional and is Defintiely something which some people want to be able to do. It would also significantly improve the atmosphere at grounds which in turn improves the matchday experience for veryone attending not just those standing. We have indeed moved on from the 80’s football era and that is why it would now be safe to reintroduce standing which has never been proved to be fundamentally unsafe.

  • Mal

    You have to respect their views. What would our view be if it had been 96 of our fans who had died that day? I used to love standing at the match but I think the pros of the all seater stadium outweigh the cons, particularly at a premier league ground such as newcastle where you have 50000 or so attending every match. 

  • Clubs should be allowed to have one designated stand where people are allowed to stand and watch the game (Gallowgate) It would increase the capacity potentially providing some cheaper tickets, whilst improving the atmosphere. Most of all though it should be fairly straight forward to safely manage one terrace of supporters rather than a whole stadium.

  • Coxhoe18

    Standing is not safe in some of the new stadiums and updated old ones. The angle at which a seated person can view a game safely is different to a standing terrace. It would there for cost too much to change. Standing is not considered safe at all seater stadia, this gives clubs the excuse to cut allocation and remove fans under H&S

  • Paulsoulby

    Liverpool fans should not be forced to stand, but by the same token, if a club wants to reintroduce satnding areas for its own fans then it is entirely up to the individual club surely ?. In Germanyit  seems to work, so why not in this country ?. If it’s o.k for rugby then  it should be o.k. for football, one thing you can’t do at football is get shit faced on the terraces, am fed up it’s asssumed am more of  a risk because of the sport I watch. The main resistance, I would guess, would come from clubs wanting to retain more expenive seats.

  • Horsey

    What happened to Liverpool fans was absolutely tragic and I have no idea how I would cope with losing a relative in similar circumstances.  I would also point out that many of the surges I have been involved in happened nowhere near the inner sanctum of a stadium.  I remember being lifted off my feet waiting to get the train back from Seaburn after a derby game in the 80’s due to being held back from the platform by the police.  There have been other similar instances getting onto tube trains in London, some of which had nothing to do with going to a football match.  Pandemonium can happen just as easily in gangways and under the stands and is more likely to manifest in dangerous crush type situations.  Have these people ever tried getting to the bar in an away end before?  Seating does give a genuine seperation of supporters but surely technology has moved on to limited standing supporters to a maximum of “2” rows between barriers unlike the 10 plus rows of old school concrete barriers.  A choice is available and safety has improved and in my view is not going to jeopardise peoples lives.  We’ll be stopping kids climbing trees and making people run infront of cars with a red flag to warn others again if this is the stance we are going to take!!!

  • matt

    This is not directly related but Im a lpool fan who comes in peace. I have just seen something via a reference on a Lpool forum that almost made me physically sick. I know our standing in the football world is low at the moment in light of the Suarez Evra affair.  I know there is resentment over Andy Carroll (I think it was great business for your club). There is inevitably footballing rivalry. But Ive always thought the geordies and scousers got on generally speaking and they understood the bigger picture of what is acceptable and what isnt. 

    Maybe Im just getting old. I just dont understand this