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Opinion

Are you sitting comfortably at St James Park?

8 months ago
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Newcastle United have become a one issue club.

In between matches, pretty much every conversation involves Mike Ashley.

Newcastle fans may start off a conversation about any variety of club related issues but all roads eventually send them back to the club’s owner.

It then become difficult, even maybe impossible, to then talk in any serious depth about other important things that should concern us as Newcastle fans, football fans.

For the NUFC fanbase, there is now a deep-rooted mental block, whereby the thinking is that it is a waste of time thinking about anything else, until Mike Ashley goes.

However, we should be talking about safe standing and wanting our club, even with Mike Ashley still here, to be at the forefront of pushing for its return.

For those of us who grew up in the terraces era, the facilities were shocking but the atmosphere was excellent, even when the football was (frequently) rubbish.

Newcastle fans now, especially younger supporters, should have the opportunity to enjoy the same.

‘The same’ won’t of course mean the same as in the days of the old Leazes End under the roof, or indeed any of the other great football terraces of the 1970s. However, safe standing would deliver the next best thing.

None of us of course will ever forget Hillsborough, just as we won’t forget the horrific fire at Bradford, both tragedies due to a failing in the duty of care to look after the safety of football fans.

The truth is that apart from the standing aspect, safe standing has nothing in common with the football terraces of the 1970s and 1980s. Back in the day, the crush of the crowd and suddenly finding yourself 50 feet away from where you had been standing, was all part of the fun. None of us at the time ever imagining that this could/would then lead to a situation like the Hillsborough tragedy.

Safe standing is exactly what it says on the tin, standing in a defined spot and the likes of ‘rail seating’ ensuring you stay where you are even in moments of high excitement, instead of in a mass of thousands of people swept along and out of control.

Safe standing has been shown to be at least as safe as what is the norm in the Premier League now, indeed safer in many cases.

Every set of away fans stands in the Premier League, almost without exception, but do so in areas designed for everybody to be sitting. Bringing in safe standing would make it safer for those fans, as well as those home supporters who want to stand as well.

In Germany you have as many as tens of thousands of fans standing in just one end of the stadium, the best supported club in Europe in terms of crowds, Borussia Dortmund, a prime example.

It isn’t about forcing fans to stand, whether at St James Park or wherever. It is about giving people the choice once again AND improving the atmospheres.

In an ideal world, you would have a minimum of 10,000 (ideally a lot more and in a bigger capacity SJP) standing places at St James Park, with the front of the Leazes and Gallowgate the most obvious places. The atmosphere is shocking these days at St James Park and yet when only 3,000 or less are at an away match it is excellent on most occasions, Newcastle fans all standing and all singing.

For safe standing to be allowed across the Premier League, it is simply a case of those in authority having the will to make it happen.

Manchester United (see below) are the latest to be now pushing for the chance to make it happen, Newcastle United should be doing the same.

Report from The Guardian:

Manchester United have made a proposal to install rail seating for up to 1,500 supporters at Old Trafford. They argue it would enhance fan safety in a part of the stadium where supporters persistently stand.

The club conducted a feasibility study following changes to the Sports Ground Stadium Authority Green Guide.

Minutes from the United fans’ forum on 31 January read: “A formal proposal was made to the local Safety Advisory Group in December 2019 to request a trial in a small section of the stadium (up to 1,500 seats in the north-east quadrant).

“Our belief is that the introduction of rail seating will enhance spectator safety in areas of the stadium where – as with other clubs – we have seen examples of persistent standing.

“The SAG committee is reviewing the request. This is not an automatic approval process. We will discuss the proposal in detail with the relevant authorities and will work through their compliance and review processes.”

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