Given England’s woes the news that Fortuna Düsseldorf have decided to increase their stadium capacity from 51,500 to almost 55,000 won’t exactly make waves in Britain. If we started posting news stories every time a German club made a ground modification we’re sure our web hits would crash pretty swiftly.
Nevertheless the planned extension of the Esprit Arena should matter to fans in Britain as the stadium's extra capacity is effectively made up of safe standing spaces. In the home section the number of standing spaces available is now 8,199 – an increase of around 3,000.
In recent years the powers-that-be have not only refused refuse to enter into a serious evidence-based debate on the matter but have even taken to arguing that German clubs were moving away from safe standing. They’re wrong on both fronts. (See right for the design of modern standing areas used in Germany which also allow seating for European matches, a Uefa requirement.)
Aside from Fortuna Düsseldorf’s recent announcement Hamburg SV also announced last year that they were increasing the capacity of their HSH Nordbank Arena with 3,000 new standing spaces while St. Pauli and Achen are also taking similar steps.
The option to stand in safety at football stadiums in the Premier League and Championship is regularly shown to be backed by nine out of 10 fans, including those who wish to sit in peace without having their view blocked. The authorities’ refusal to allow safe standing is a constant source of frustration among fans.
You only need to visit a ground in the top two divisions to witness hundreds regularly breaking ground regulations. Specifically designed safe standing areas would be far safer for fans than the current situation where fans throughout the top two divisions are regularly choosing to stand in seated areas.
Standing might have been banned in the top two tiers for almost 20 years but 1000s of fans throughout Britain choose to ignore the rule – why won’t the authorities listen? The law is an ass.
Back in September 2008 the Lib Dems backed safe standing. Now they’ve got a say in power, and Nick Clegg is asking the public which laws they’d like to repeal, wouldn’t it be nice if they followed through with their convictions and listened to football fans?
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