Safe standing receives German boost

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Interesting news from Germany this week where Hamburg SV announced they are going to increase their ground’s capacity from 57,000 to an even more impressive 61,322. Now what has this got to do with me, we hear you ask? If we posted a news story every time a German club expanded its ground we’d soon start losing hits, that’s for sure. The reason it should matter to fans in England and Wales is that of the 4,322 increase 3,000 of those spaces are going to be accounted for by safe standing spaces.

Despite the Independent Football Commission, Liberal Democrats and 90 per cent of fans regularly backing safe standing, the authorities in this country still won’t enter into an evidence-based debate on the matter.

Advocates of safe standing - such as ourselves - regularly point to the German model, where safe standing is allowed in the top-flight and grounds comply with Fifa requirements through innovative design (see right). HSV is going to host the 2010 Europa League Final, showing safe standing is no barrier to bidding for the continent's biggest games.

However those in or around government, such as ex-sports minister Richard Caborn, have tried to undermine our argument by blithely telling us that German clubs are moving away from safe standing - an argument that is shot to pieces after the latest news from Hamburg.

There are two main parts to the conversion and refreshingly HSV seem to have been working very closely with supporters to put the plans into action. The areas in which changes are being made include Block 22C, home to the 'Chosen Few', one of HSV's core fan groups. 

The block is being converted from seats to standing places, which is going to increase its capacity by around 1,500 while a new tier is also going to be built in the bottom section of the North Stand, meaning 12,000 of the 22,000 capacity will be for standing. This also has the advantage of making space for those who can’t necessarily afford season tickets.

"We will thus be able to offer standing places not just as season tickets, but also as single match tickets," says HSV chairman Bernd Hoffmann.

HSV is not a unique case either. A number of clubs in the Second Bundesliga such as St. Pauli and Aachen are also rebuilding or refurbishing their grounds and plan to expand standing areas.

Hamburg will also be home to the next European Football Fans' Congress which takes from July 17th-19th. For more info visit the Football Supporters’ International website.