It's the economics, stupid...

Hoffenheim Sep 2010

RoryTingleSafe standing advocate Rory Tingle argues that clubs should back the economic case for safe standing.

It’s time for football to acknowledge the economic case for safe standing. It’s great to see that the German FA has stressed the importance of a “positive fan culture” to its clubs and placed safe standing at the heart of this (the original document, in German, is here). It’s a tribute to the success of standing areas in the German Bundesliga which help to create and shape the special atmosphere of the league.

This points to a wider issue, which concerns the abject failure of many in power to acknowledge the opinions of supporters. Football clubs are ultimately businesses and what business can afford to ignore the views of nine out of 10 ‘customers’ in relation to safe standing and ticket prices?

Arguments for safe standing are backed by a solid business case. At its most basic level this is that standing areas can accommodate a higher density of fans. The issue of safe standing is therefore intrinsically linked to that of ticket prices. Its introduction would create extra revenue which could be used to drive down entry fees with extra money still left over for clubs.

As away attendances are dwindling and 40% of fans said they were attending fewer games due to over-inflated prices, it is clear that this issue must be addressed. Perhaps more worryingly, with the average Premier League fan a man in his mid-40s, we may see a generation whose understanding of ‘watching football’ means sitting in front of the TV.

Effective businesses also depend on good customer relations, and the rejection of the opinions of so many supporters paired with the often hostile treatment those who choose to stand attract from stewards represents an aberration of the principle of customer service.

I welcome Premier League Chief Executive Richard Scudamore’s statement that he supports the action of Manchester City fans who chose to reject high ticket prices. Scudamore sees this as an example of market forces at work.

Yet surely by rejecting the idea of safe standing he is ignoring the demands of the market? It’s about time that those in charge acknowledged the economic benefits of safe standing - you can’t just pick and choose which market forces apply to your business.

Rory Tingle is a student journalist and writer from Durham University. Read more from Rory at rorytingle.blogspot.co.uk.

Thanks to Jon Darch for the image from Hoffenheim (Germany).

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