Scottish champions Celtic opened their much-anticipated safe-standing railing section yesterday during a 2-1 friendly win against German side Wolfsburg.
The safe-standing area has been introduced in the Lisbon Lions Stand and it holds 2,600 supporters approximately.
Glasgow City Council granted Celtic permission back in June 2015 after five years of hard planning and effort in persuading the local authorities to back the scheme.
If Celtic’s venture proves a success like it has in other leagues across Europe – Germany’s Bundesliga in particular – then calls for it to be introduced in the higher echelons of English football will surely grow to an untenable level.
The Bundesliga is well-known for its electrifying atmosphere. Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park, Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Borussia-Park and Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena to name a few give visitors daunting receptions.
For example, the Signal Iduna Park holds 81,359. One end has safe-standing railings, holds up to 25,000 fans at once and the renowned Yellow Wall has acquired quite the intimidating reputation.
What the safe-standing railing concept offers clubs is the chance to increase their capacity. For every 1 person you can safely welcome in current seated areas, you can welcome up to 1.8 people into the safe-standing area.
In today’s economic climate, an increased capacity could potentially mean more income for the club, and also the chance to reduce ticket prices.
Back in 2012 however, I interviewed Pete Daykin, Football Supporters Federation (FSF) Safe-Standing campaigner, and he emphasised the concept had more to do with giving people a choice of standing or sitting – rather than improving the stadia’s atmosphere or reducing ticket prices.
“There are two sorts of people which go to a football match. The ones who’d rather stand, and the ones who prefer sitting.” He explained.
“A lot of the people who prefer sitting also want the choice of either standing or sitting. Quite reasonably they want to be able to sit in their seat without an impeded view of the match. We firmly believe that this safe standing concept will stop the impeding of other people’s view whilst still giving others the option of standing.”
Having been one of the aspects firmly attributed with fan culture, standing at British matches was banned after the Taylor Report in 1990, following the 1989 Hillsborough disaster which resulted in the deaths of ninety-six Liverpool supporters.
The issues regarding standing at football grounds has since been revisited, only for any calls for its reintroduction to subsequently be quashed on safety grounds.
On April 26th 2016 however, Liverpool supporters were finally acquitted of any blame for the disaster as an inquest jury ruled the victims had been unlawfully killed in a tragedy caused by South Yorkshire Police.
The long-awaited inquest verdict further emphasised the justifications for introducing safe-standing in the top-tiers of English football.
The reality in many grounds today – despite the all-seater requirements – is that hundreds, if not thousands, of fans still stand at every game.
These fans are standing in areas not designed for the purpose. They are often standing behind low-backed seats, and at moments of celebration, any slight push from behind can send a fan toppling over or cause serious injuries to the shins.
The Football Supporters’ Federation has been campaigning for the safe-standing concept to be introduced for nearly fifteen years, and a potentially successful introduction in Scotland’s top-flight could boast enough evidence for a future introduction in England and Wales.
Premier League sides Crystal Palace, Watford and Swansea City have already voiced their backing for safe-standing, whilst Manchester United officials are known to be quietly backing the idea also.
The louder these calls get, the harder they’ll be to ignore.
See The FSF’s 2014 Safe-Standing campaign trailer for more information.