An emphatic yes to reintroducing standing sections at Premier League grounds

by Andy Dillon / 23 June 2017, 10:15

STAND UP if you love English football.

It’s a simple message and one which has thankfully gathered momentum this week with the Premier League writing to member clubs on a most touchy subject.

Opponents claim the re-introduction of terracing at our football grounds will unleash hell on our national sport.

That it will drag us back to the so-called ‘dark days’ of the 1970s and 80s when absolutely everyone who dared venture out to watch their team got a good kicking as the hidden cost of the cheap ticket prices.

It’s amazing how history can get so wildly distorted in such a short time.

As someone who started his ‘career’ watching football as an 11 year-old in 1981 I remember seeing it ‘kicking off’ in grounds.

But anyone with an ounce of sense learnt pretty quickly that it was quite easy to dodge the rucks inside and outside the creaky old grounds of our four divisions.

And ‘keeping your head down on’ away trips applies as much nowadays as it did back then.

If you’re unlucky or a bit lairy, it’s as likely to get picked off in the streets surrounding the multi-million pound arenas which now symbolise the slick corporate image of the Premier League as it was 30 years ago.

Last season we saw frequent crowd trouble at West Ham in the brand new London Stadium. Bournemouth, Middlesbrough, Chelsea and Watford fans will pay testament to that.

A year before we watched Millwall and Barnsley fans punching each other’s lights out in the Play Off Final at Wembley.

Go back a few more years and West Ham and Millwall did a pretty good job of putting on a full scale riot in the League Cup.

A Newcastle fan arrested for hitting a police horse; QPR and Burnley supporters fighting in the streets; Millwall and Tottenham fans causing chaos before last season’s FA Cup match.

And not a terrace in sight.

Fans Standing

The problem is not standing up at games, the problem is a minority of cowardly thugs who generally attack small groups of rival fans in large numbers.

Inside stadiums that still occurs once in a blue moon but along with seats has come sharp-focus CCTV which can deter or catch the culprits.

Designated tickets with membership schemes linking supporters’ details to their seat makes identification easier from which banning orders ensue. The Courts quite like jailing football hooligans too.

The big problem quietly confronting English football is the dying atmospheres inside Premier League grounds which must be all-seat by law.

West Ham’s vast soulless concrete bowl in London’s East End is the newest ground opened and was voted the worst for atmosphere.

Their South London neighbours Crystal Palace who play at ramshackle Selhurst Park have the best it is said.

But a bunch of testosterone-fuelled teenagers in the Holmesdale Road end is not enough to save us from silence.

The big appeal of English football to foreign fans and TV companies was exciting football and passionate atmospheres. The connection between Liverpool’s fans and players was always much more concentrated than at Real Madrid or Barcelona.

One of the major factors which has made the Premier League so popular and made everyone involved so much money is the perceived unique atmosphere of an English ground.

That is fading fast. Man City’s Etihad Stadium had vast amounts of empty seats for their home match against Crystal Palace. Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium was a ghost town by the end of the season.

The noise is going too. Most Premier League matches are now accompanied by a gentle hum of background noise - the sound of people munching popcorn or their seat snapping down on its hinges fans finally arrive back from hospitality areas to watch the game ten minutes into the second half.

If the very people sitting 30 yards away from the game can’t be bothered imagine how that looks on a TV screen on the other side of the world.

Unless something is done about the fast-fading and feeble atmospheres at Premier League grounds, the ‘most exciting’ league in the world will lose the very thing that made it so appealing in the first place.

Letting a few hundred people stand up and sing a few songs on modern terracing doesn’t mean an inevitable return to widespread crowd trouble.

But if we don’t do it then we may as well all give up and go and watch tennis where everybody claps everybody and it’s a thoroughly dull experience.

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