by Tom Stewart
Aston Villa have announced that they plan to introduce a small section of ‘safe standing’ into their 42,000 Villa Park home.
The Premier League club made the announcement yesterday, but also said that it wouldn’t happen until at least 2013, as they have a series of hurdles to overcome before it becomes a reality.
This follows news that SPL clubs have been given the go-ahead to introduce safe standing into their grounds, with Celtic particularly interested.
To make this happen would require a reversal of the law brought about following the post-Hillsborough report made by Lord Taylor which outlaws terracing in England’s top two divisions.
However, support for the introduction of ‘safe standing‘, which can be converted to seating easily, has grown in recent years following huge levels of success in Germany
The model used in Germany with ‘rail seats’ would be copied to suit the English model. This has proved immensely popular in Germany, with reduced ticket prices have meaning that the Bundesliga is the highest attended league in the world.
The terracing can be easily converted to all-seater (the terracing is always in a particular area of the ground) so it can be used for international and european club competitions.
The Football Supporters Federation (FSF) are hoping for a trial of safe standing areas in England, with the potential for higher attendances and lower ticket costs for the standing areas.
It could prove popular with a number of clubs who are struggling to fill their stadiums with all-seater crowds and high ticket costs.
However there are a number of obstacles standing in the way:
-It is currently illegal to have terracing in the top two tiers of English football, and this law would need to be reversed. There has been very little political support for this movement so this could prove to be a major stumbling block.
-English clubs spent a lot of money on converting their grounds to become all-seater following the Taylor Report and may therefore be reluctant to spend more money on converting again.
-While it will result in higher attendances, which in theory would benefit the clubs with higher merchandise sales etc. the type of person that will want to stand in the terraces are NOT the type of person that spends much money in the ground (generally young males). Clubs are keen to get more and more families into grounds because they are the ones who spend money.