With the news that Celtic Football Club has been given the green light to introduce safe standing for the start of the 2016/17 season, English clubs are still struggling to find an agreement for the much-demanded move. But could a return to standing in football really work in England?
According to a poll by the Football Supporters Federation, the idea is certainly popular with supporters, with a reported 9 in 10 football fans in favour of the move. Proponents argue that the move could reduce ticket prices and provide a more enjoyable and affordable experience for supporters, several of whom feel forced to overpay for their tickets. Many clubs are in agreement, seeing the potential to fit more fans into the stadium and potentially increase profits. But there remains staunch opposition to the move, from those who warn of a return to the old days of dangerous stadia that could cause serious problems for fans, stewards and police officers.
The developments that make safe standing different from the past’s dangerous stadia were clearly laid out in the plans accepted by Glasgow City Council for Celtic. High security with barcode checks on tickets means that stands cannot become overcrowded, while rail seating which folds away, operates as the crash barrier to prevent crushes. Fencing is still present between the crowd and the pitch. Still, unlike in old stadia, modern sports fencing – currently seen in Germany – contains safety doors that open automatically in the case of an emergency.
Germany may be the go-to examples for proponents of safe standing, but it is prevalent throughout much of the world. Standing is permitted for European fixtures and even international games. The 2006 football World Cup featured safe standing and football fencing, as did the European Championship.
The campaign has travelled a long road so far, but with the Football League voting to investigate and trial the idea, safe standing is gaining momentum in England. Celtic will likely be the first major club in Britain to re-introduce standing at games, but it may not be too long before clubs south of the border follow suit.