Fans’ group makes strong case for a re-introduction of terracing
Will we ever see the reintroduction of standing terraces at Carrow Road?
The stand up, sit down debate was in the spotlight again this week when the Football Supporters’ Federation launched an online petition calling for the return of standing areas in the Premier League and Championship.
No sooner had the FSF issued their statement than they were under attack on three fronts — from the sports minister, the Premier League and the Hillsborough Family Support Group.
All-seater grounds in the top two divisions have been compulsory since 1994, as a result of the Taylor Report into the Hillsborough disaster of 1989.
Norwich City dispensed with terracing in 1992 when the Barclay Stand was rebuilt as a two-tier structure and the standing area in the River End lower tier was filled with seats.
I can remember sitting through a stormy meeting at Carrow Road that summer as chairman Robert Chase faced angry fans who simply did not want to take the changes sitting down.
It seems — indeed, it was — a long time ago, so much so that one might ask if it is really an issue any more, especially at Norwich, where the average league gate is more than 25,000 in an all-seater ground, roughly 10,000 higher than City’s average the last time part of the stadium was terraced, when top-flight football was on offer.
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Would any club spend money ripping out seats and displacing thousands of fans who have sat there for years — in some cases nearly two decades?
Yet the FSF has come up with some cogent arguments for a rethink and held a meeting on Monday with representatives from the police, Government and football authorities.
Don Foster, MP for Bath and former Liberal Democrats sports spokesman, launched his Safe Standing Bill last year and it will receive a second reading in Parliament on June 17.
In their statement, the FSF claim that safe standing areas would not just benefit those who wish to stand but also those who prefer to sit, many of whom find their views blocked by standing supporters.
They argue: “Thousands of fans regularly ignore stadium rules and choose to stand in front of their seats every week. While the Taylor Report envisaged that this practice would die out as fans became used to all-seater stadia, this has not proved to be the case.
“Attempts by the football authorities to persuade all fans to sit have failed and it is clear that many supporters would rather stand than sit. This can cause problems for those who cannot or do not want to stand.”
This was all too apparent at Hull City last week, where the vast majority of the Canaries’ 2,500-plus travelling supporters stood throughout the whole match. Doubtless hundreds of them chose to, but those who preferred to sit had no choice at all — they simply could not see the game if they stayed in their seats.
The FSF also argues that the greater capacity of standing areas would mean cheaper admission and it points to major arenas in Europe that are dual purpose, where all-seater sections, compulsory under UEFA and FIFA rules for European club competitions and internationals, are designed in such a way that they can be swiftly converted to terracing for domestic games.
In Germany, Schalke 04’s Veltins-Arena and Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion both have flexible capacity – in Dortmund’s case it rises from 65,000 all-seater to more than 80,000 for Bundesliga matches with standing accommodation.
It is hard to imagine such a sophisticated design in an expanded Carrow Road, where the Canaries hope to bring capacity up to 35,000 if they become re-established as a Premier League club. In the age of padded seats costing �30 per match in some sections, it is hard to imagine the return of terracing being part of the plan, though some of City’s most vocal fans would certainly welcome it.
As one who began watching football at Carrow Road on the old South Stand terrace, I recall a greater sense of excitement, but also insecurity, in marching over the railway bridge in a cast of thousands towards the turnstiles, never quite sure where you would find a space on the terraces, than in later years when I had the same numbered seat every week. And City supporters were happily re-acquainted with life on the terraces on some League One grounds last season.
Chris Wright, Norwich City Independent Supporters’ Association chairman, acknowledged: “There are a lot of supporters who would love to go back to terracing, just like we had when I first started watching Norwich.
“But I can’t see the League ever bringing it back. Supporters are different today. Gone are the days when people would leave Laurence Scott or Boulton & Paul and go straight up to the ground and stand on the terraces and have to use tin huts for toilets.
“It’s a totally different environment with families turning up and nearly as many women as men going to games, and most people just don’t want to stand.
“Would people accept it, being packed in the way they used to be? I’m not sure they would — and I’m not sure I would want it. They’re used to a bit more comfort.
“There may be small areas like the Snake Pit and the lower Barclay that are the exception. You might get a very small section in the future.
“Personally I have no feelings either way. It would be nice for those who want it but the game’s changed.”
• WHAT THEY SAY
• “Our view is that the benefits of all-seater stadia far outweigh the return of standing areas. They have led to more women and more children attending the games and no matter how safe standing can be made, seating is always safer. We will not be encouraging the Government to change the law” – Dan Johnson, Premier League chief spokesman.
• “Would people accept it, being packed in the way they used to be? I’m not sure they would — and I’m not sure I would want it. They’re used to a bit more comfort.” – Chris Wright, Norwich City Independent Supporters’ Association chairman.
• “Lord Taylor’s report into Hillsborough cited many reasons why the disaster occurred. The fact the crowd was standing was not one of those reasons ... the disaster happened because of a culture of negligence, not because standing is inherently unsafe” – Don Foster, MP, who launched the Safe Standing Bill.
• “This should be a matter for individual clubs in consultation with their fans. Safe standing has proved to be a massive success in other parts of the world ... let’s give clubs and their fans in the Premier League and Championship the same choice as that given to clubs in the lower leagues” – Malcolm Clarke, Football Supporters’ Federation chairman.
• “We are absolutely against it and always will be. Our football clubs should remain all-seater stadiums. People always say they have standing areas in Germany but we don’t play any part over what happens in that country. We just believe there’s no such thing as safe standing in this country” – Hillsborough Family Support Group.
• “The minister’s head would be on a spike on Tower Bridge before he could draft a resignation letter” – Sports Minister Hugh Robertson anticipates the reaction to the first accident or crowd trouble if terraces return.