Derby County and Nigel Clough back safe standing

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Derby County manager Nigel Clough has backed the possible introduction of safe standing areas at Pride Park after the Rams received a visit from the Safe Standing Roadshow (see left) earlier this year. The news gives yet another boost to the FSF’s Safe Standing campaign following both Aston Villa and the Scottish Premier League’s support for safe standing areas.

“As a club that places great importance on customer care, we recognise that a not insignificant number of our fans prefer to watch football standing up, but we currently do not have the opportunity to satisfy this customer preference,” said Clough.

“However, having seen a demonstration of rail seats, we believe that the concept has merit and could provide us with a safe and well-managed means of doing so. We therefore request that the relevant authorities take a close look at the rail seat system with a view to defining appropriate criteria under which it could be introduced in future at grounds such as ours.”

Clough is the latest in a long line of significant figures to have backed safe standing. Back in November 2011 John Barrow of architects Populous said safe standing areas could be introduced “without any problems at all”.

Safe standing? No problem

“We as designers have no problem with standing at all. It would clearly need to be legislated for, managed, and safely stewarded, but in terms of safety it can be done without any problems at all in small areas,” said Barrow. Barrow played a key role in designing Wembley, designed stadiums for Euro 2004 as well as Soccer City in Johannesburg which hosted the 2010 World Cup final.

“It is great to have standing areas. They increase excitement in stadiums, particularly behind the goals. If the legislation is there to allow the top clubs to have standing areas again, it could help the clubs who are looking to expand capacity and allow more young people in,” said Barrow speaking at the International Football Arena conference.

In June 2011 Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis said he was “open” to the possibility of safe standing areas at the Emirates and acknowledged the positive impact it could have on atmosphere.

“It is something that I have always been open to,” said Gazidis. “The more I learn about it, the more complex an issue it is, but viscerally it is something that I find attractive because it gives fans, a certain group of fans who like to stand who create the atmosphere, another way to be in our stadium.”

In the same month Professor Steve Frosdick, founder member of the UK Football Safety Officers’ Association (FSOA) and noted expert in crowd safety, backed the FSF’s campaign at a specially arranged event in Liverpool. Current FSOA president Jim Chalmers has also said “there is no reason why safe standing cannot exist in our top two divisions if there is a will to allow this at government level”.

The German experience

In Germany standing areas are provided at many clubs. Each is sub-divided into smaller blocks with strict capacity limits. The combined effect across an entire stand creates the sensation of being in a larger standing area. This adds to the atmosphere immeasurably and ensures supporter safety.

Derby County fan Nick Webster last week visited the ground of German football club Hannover 96 to get a first-hand look at the sort of safe standing facilities that he hopes will one day be available at Pride Park. Nick was invited to Hannover to take part in a promotional film for ‘rail seats’ which allow clubs to accommodate safe standing areas which can be converted to all-seater for European matches or concerts.

Speaking to Derby County officials, Nick said: “The home end has 3,000 rail seats in it. When used for safe standing that provides room for 5,400 cheering fans. In the corner at the opposite end there are a further 1,000 rail seats for away fans, where 1,800 are accommodated when used for standing. I cannot stress enough how safe it is compared to standing behind normal seats. And it looked brilliant!”

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