Why The Authorities Really Don’t Want Standing At Matches
The subject of standing areas in UK football grounds has reared its head again, and like the argument about changing the clocks in Autumn and Spring, this debate is becoming just as regular, and pretty much just as insoluble.
I have to say at the onset, that I’m in favour of standing areas, even though my decrepitude will bar me from participating in them. They operate successfully in other European major leagues, and there is no logistical reason why they cannot operate here.
As ever, when this subject makes its annual appearance in the media, a faceless twonk from the Premier League issues a statement saying that they’re against the idea. The reasoning is an exercise in management-speak, apparently “We have a vibrant match day ‘experience’ for supporters… “ I didn’t read after that, because if anything is designed to induce boredom in me, It’s gobblydegook from a corporate suit.
Why does everything have to be an ‘experience’ nowadays? You don’t go to the shops, you have a ‘retail experience’, you don’t go on your summer jollies, you have a ‘vacation experience’, and now apparently you don’t go to the match, you have a ‘match day experience’. For the Prem spokesman of course, it is an experience, a free one, in nice comfy seats.
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The main reason behind their reticence in this of course, isn’t safety, it’s because they (the clubs) couldn’t charge (although don’t put it past them to try) upwards of 28 quid to stand.
I am not advocating a return to the days of crumbling terraces, 15th century toilets and food that seemed to have been cooked in around the same era, but surely there is middle ground here?
The atmosphere in Prem grounds nowadays, apart from your derby game, is pretty mundane to say the least. At SJP pre match, it sounds like the noise created by delegates to a conference having a coffee before the speaking starts. Not being a regular away supporter, I can’t vouch that this applies to every ground, but comments I’ve read on various media outlets suggests that it mostly is.
The people who run the game aren’t really football supporters, they want to replicate the atmosphere of a theatre when dear dear Kenny Branagh is giving us his Hamlet, in that you watch the performance, empty your pockets in the merchandising section, clap appreciatively at the end, whatever the standard of the fare you’ve witnessed, and go home.
Football grounds are supposed to be intimidating, trying to get supporters to give you that edge over the opponent, lift your team and reminding them when standards fall.
Standing areas encourage that atmosphere, and if you don’t like it, you go somewhere else. It is viable, it can be policed and it can be a 12th man for your team, all it needs is the will to do it, oh, and me running the Premier League.
For either scenario, I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath.
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