The Flip Side of Safe Standing
Last week, a good friend of mine pointed me in the direction of some rather wise words of advice from a programme dated March 4th, 1922.
“You will add to the comfort of all persons in the Stand if you will KEEP YOUR SEATS, instead of bobbing up and down”, a clearly irritated official warned the gathered Huddersfield Town and Millwall fans. “If all of you KEEP SEATED all can see the GAME IN COMFORT.”
Proof, if ever you needed it, that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Indeed, over the past year or so, sports journalists have dedicated a surprising amount of column inches to the issue of standing and sitting at football matches. Most have been in support of the FSF’s Safe Standing Campaign, but there’s another, equally important side to the coin, and that’s the ability of supporters to sit in their assigned seat at away games.
Predictably, this is one of those things in life that falls into the category ‘easier said than done’. Several people have told me that they’ve lost count of the number of games where their view has been blocked by groups of standing supporters, while others have turned up on match-days only to find their seat occupied by someone else.
This state of affairs is often compounded by an inconsiderate attitude from fellow supporters, as well as poor stewarding. For the elderly and those with conditions that prevent prolonged standing, this can be incredibly frustrating and dispiriting, and I know of at least two cases where it’s caused long-time fans to avoid away fixtures altogether.
Thankfully, the solution is obvious, straightforward, and should please just about everyone.
All clubs have to do is allocate block seating, with an unreserved section at the back for those who want to stand (marked ‘S’ for singing, of course), and a reserved section in front for those who want to sit. Barring some unforeseen bureaucratic obstacle, it shouldn’t be too hard to extend the block scheme to those who pay on the day.
Countless clubs across Europe operate a similar system, as do a number of British clubs, so we know it works. Perhaps it’s time for the rest to follow suit.
James A. Chisem is a freelance writer. He is a keen advocate of supporter involvement in decision-making at club and league level. You can find the rest of his semi-cogent ramblings here, or follow him on Twitter @jachiz89.