In the first of a two-part series looking at safe standing and the European Championships in France, Jon Darch looks at the prevalence of standing in seated areas...
The ‘Red Wall’. That’s what the Welsh players call their banked army of fans at the Euros. Belting out their renditions of Zombie Nation, Men of Harlech and other favourites, they have impressed not only their own players, but TV audiences around Europe as well. And to a man, woman and child they have been standing.
Nor are the Welsh the odds one out. The fans in the lower tiers behind the goals – and often along the sides as well – at EVERY single Euro 2016 game have been joyfully on their feet.
Tens of thousands of them. Having a great time. Standing up because they’re excited. Standing up because only then can they truly sing their hearts out for the lads.
And yet, every Euro 2016 stadium is an all-seater ground. Every one of those fans has paid a hefty price for a ticket for a seat, and then chosen not to use that seat.
The vast majority among them will have gone to the game fully expecting to stand and looking forward to doing so. A few, however, perhaps older, very young or shorter, will have gone expecting to sit. They will have been disappointed when all their fellow fans around them remained on their feet as the referee blew the whistle to get the game underway. Their view of the game may have been severely impaired. Or they may even had none at all, if they had to sit down to rest their legs. That’s not fair and it’s not right.
And what about those thousands of fans enjoying themselves standing up. Going delirious as one of the many late goals in this tournament gets slotted home. Tumbling over the seats in front of them towards the pitch perimeter to get closer to the goal-scoring hero sliding on his knees towards the crowd to soak up their acclaim? Are they as safe as they could be? As they should be? Is standing behind a shin-high trip hazard, i.e. a low seat back, a good idea?
The answer, of course, is that fans who do not wish to stand should be able to buy tickets for areas of the ground where they know they will be among like-minded supporters and where everyone will sit. And fans who wish to stand should be provided with designated areas designed with their safety in mind, for instance by being fitted with rail seats incorporating waist-high rails.
It’s too late now to put this right for Euro 2016. But it’s high time that we did so in our all-seater stadia in England and Wales – just like Celtic are currently doing in Scotland. Then every club’s equivalent of the ‘Red Wall’ could stand and sing in greater safety and fans who prefer to sit could join in from adjoining areas of the ground, able to see the game and savour the atmosphere in their preferred manner.
That’s one thing that Euro 2016 has made abundantly clear.
- Part II: In light of Russian violence in Marseille, Jon examines the claim that all-seater stadia have curbed hooliganism.
The FSF blog is the space to challenge perceived wisdom, entertain readers and inform our members. The views expressed are those of the author and they don't necessarily represent FSF policy and (pay attention journalists) shouldn't be attributed to the FSF.
Thanks to Action Images for the image used in this blog.