January 2017. In what is believed to be the biggest ever poll of Liverpool fans’ attitude towards safe standing an overwhelming majority have agreed that their club should consider following Celtic’s lead and look to install rail seating at Anfield.
The operators of multi-award-winning podcast The AnfieldWrap frequently run polls on their Twitter account, which is followed by over 110,000 Liverpool fans. Normally, they say, they get around 1,200 votes. In January 2017, they decided to run a poll on safe standing. The level of response was astonishing. Instead of the usual 1,200, nearly 8,000 LFC fans wanted to have their say. And 83% supported the suggestion put to them that Liverpool should consider something similar to the safe standing section at Celtic Park.
Coming just months after 93% of the members of Liverpool’s leading supporters’ group The Spirit of Shankly voted for their organisation to adopt a formal position on rail seating, the result of the TAW poll gives the lie to the assumption that Liverpool fans en bloc oppose safe standing. After a comprehensive consultation exercise, Spirit of Shankly will be formally adopting their position on rail seating in mid-2017. If the TAW poll is representative of the view of the match-going Liverpool fans, then it looks likely that this position too will be a supportive one.
November 2016. Safe standing in England and Wales has come a major step
closer with the 20 Premier League clubs formally discussing the subject at a
chairmen’s meeting for the first time ever.
As a result of their meeting, the clubs “tasked the Premier League with scoping out the safety, supporter, technical and legislative issues surrounding safe standing” to enable further fact-based discussions to take place.
While the Football League had consulted its 72 clubs about
rail seating in December 2013, the Premier League had not until now held any
formal discussions on the topic with its clubs. The outcome of the EFL
consultation was a mandate for the League executive from 77% of its member
clubs to “approach the minister for
sport to request that the 'all-seater' stadia requirement for Championship
clubs be reviewed with a view to the re-introduction of standing accommodation”.
With the Premier League now taking what West Ham co-chairman David Gold called “probably the first step” towards the introduction of safe standing, the prospect of a joined-up approach to government on the issue from the EPL and EFL together now seems much greater.
December 2016. Manchester United have become the first Premier League club to survey its fans on safe standing. In a trailblazing move, the world’s most famous football club has asked fans if they would like to see safe standing at Old Trafford and, if so, where.
As part of a survey sent out to season ticket holders, the Red Devils asked fans two questions: “If Premier League clubs were permitted to introduce safe standing would you like Manchester United to do so at Old Trafford in the future?” and “If Manchester United were to introduce safe standing areas at Old Trafford in the future, where would you like these areas to be situated?” The second question was accompanied by an Old Trafford seating plan, with fans asked to then select their top three choices.
The two survey questions as shown to Utd fans:
This unprecedented degree of fan engagement on the subject from a Premier League club comes as a continuation of a long dialogue that Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) has had on safe standing with the club over several years, during which time MUST has been instrumental in organising presentations of rail seating to senior club executives at Old Trafford, Celtic Park and VfL Wolfsburg.
November 2016. West Bromwich Albion have become the latest Premier League to announce a public interest in rail seating, with operations director Mark Miles giving a long interview on the subject to local media and via the club’s own channels to explain the potential implications to fans.
Talking about the assessment of safety
risks in existing all-seater stadia such as The Hawthorns, Miles says: “While standing in
seated areas isn’t inherently unsafe, it’s far from ideal and as a club, we
have to recognise that there are potential risks. One is the possibility of a
potential crowd collapse where there is a surge or something similar at the
back and everybody dominoes forwards from the top of the stand. Clearly that is
a worst case scenario, but we must accept it exists.”
Looking ahead to potential provided by rail seats, he notes: “if it could be demonstrated that in fact, it can actually create a safer environment and address the issue that, whether we like it or not, supporters want to stand, then I think government would take notice.”
His full interview, which is well worth a read, is available here on the WBA website.
As a senior figure also in the Football Safety Officers Association, it is great to see Mark talking here so knowledgeably about rail seats and looking with an open mind at the benefits that they may bring for him in terms of the safety of spectators in his ground.
November 2016. In the same month that Premier League clubs discussed safe standing for the first time ever, the FA gave its backing to the concept, with new chairman Greg Clarke throwing his weight behind the campaign.
“I love standing, the fans love it and it really contributes to the atmosphere. I have fond memories of standing up when I was a lad and I always stand up at grassroots matches, such as when I watched Devon County FA play the Royal Navy last week. I think if football works together on this, then we could get a result and the fans would love it”, Clarke told The Times.
"A fan of safe standing"
Shortly after taking up his new position, Clarke had previously told The Telegraph: “Certainly, I’ve been a fan of safe standing. In the end, if people want to stand and you can make it safe for them to stand, why wouldn’t you let them? We need to find a way over time to convince the Government there won’t be public order issues, it will be safe, it will be controllable… what we want is nice safe family-orientated grounds which also have safe standing.”
With the Premier League now formally discussing the subject, the EFL mandated by 77% of its member clubs to “approach the minister for sport to request that the 'all-seater' stadia requirement for Championship clubs be reviewed with a view to the re-introduction of standing accommodation” and the FA chairman now saying “I think if football works together on this, then we could get a result”, a three-party approach to government looks closer than ever before.
October 2016. Brighton & Hove Albion CEO Paul Barber has announced that the club is to consult with supporters and explore the options for installing rail seats at the Amex Stadium as and when regulations permit.
Brighton & Hove Albion look into rail seating
Barber told the BBC "If we can afford it and legislation allows us, we are open-minded to see if we can make it happen." On the club website he further explained that he had already been to Borussia Dortmund to look at the rail seating there and also to “a very informative meeting at Celtic with senior members of their operations team, architects, engineers and safety experts”.
The chief executive also appeared in an extended interview explaining the club’s position on their YouTube channel:
A few weeks later, club safety and security manager Adrian Morris also went on a fact-finding visit to two clubs in Germany, including Hannover 96, where he was shown the rail seating by SLO Johannes Seidel, a good friend of this site.
Adrian Morris (right) with Johannes Seidel, checking out the rail seats at the HDI Arena in Hannover.
September 2016. Liverpool Supporters’ Union (LSU), the Spirit of Shankly, put a resolution to members at its AGM, asking if the LSU should adopt a formal position on rail seating. The resolution was passed unanimously by the members in attendance.
Spirit of Shankly discuss rail seating
While the motion on the table was not asking members whether Spirit of Shankly should support rail seating, every member who spoke from the floor took the opportunity to say that they supported its introduction. They included Hillsborough Justice Campaign member, who lost his brother in the disaster: “I’ve come full circle on this,” said. “I supported all-seater stadia. But we’ve got to see where we are now, 27 years later: thousands of people stand at a football game. I want to make that as safe as possible. Rail seating is the safest way to do it.” The full video of the meeting is available here on the Spirit of Shankly Facebook page (the item on rail seating begins at around 49’ 30”).
When the resolution, which asked “Should the LSU adopt a position on rail seating and embark on a period of consultation and engagement with supporters to determine what that position is?” was subsequently put the full membership online, 93% said ‘Yes’.
Spirit of Shankly has since published a detailed schedule of consultation at the end of which a formal position will emerge in July 2017.
The first of the three books was called just that, ‘The Beautiful Game’ by David Conn. The second was David Goldblatt’s ‘The Game of Our Lives’. And the third, which I read this summer, ‘And the Sun Shines Now’ by Adrian Tempany.
All three books give an account set within a socio-economic and
personal context of the history of football in England from the late 1980s
through to the year of publication. As my own ‘formative’ football years were
the 1970s, the period all three books describe is one I’ve lived through and
experienced along with the authors. Indeed, I feel a certain affinity to all
As a student in Manchester, if I couldn’t afford the train fare on a Saturday to go to see my own club, I’d stay in town and stand on the Kippax watching David Conn’s Manchester City. David Goldblatt is, like me, a supporter of a Bristol football club, albeit in his case the ‘wrong’ one! And Adrian Tempany clearly has the same admiration for many of the communal and socially inclusive aspects of the Bundesliga that likewise draw me to Berlin whenever possible to soak up life on the German terraces.
“Supporters were now making way for ‘customers’.”
“… the Establishment washed its hands of the Hillsborough disaster and tossed football to the four winds.”
“The national sport was now the ‘football industry’.”
While these quotes are all from ‘And the Sun Shines Now’, similar sentiments are found in all three books. All three authors have shared experiences of the era concerned. Experiences I too share. Yet, one of us sees this period in English football from a very unique perspective, which makes his book all the more compelling and which adds an extra gravitas to what he says about how the game and how English society have changed. It is the perspective of a Hillsborough survivor. Adrian Tempany was on the Leppings Lane terrace that fateful day in April 1989 and only just lived to tell the tale.
“Three men directly in front of me were going – slowly turning blue, their faces changing from a ghostly pallor to a pale violet, their lips almost trembling with cold. Some people were covered in vomit. Some were weeping. Others were gibbering, trying to black out what was happening.
I was losing strength; I knew I couldn’t survive much longer. My head was trapped in a channel, looking slightly to the left, to the North Stand, when into that channel walked a policeman. He stopped and looked into the terrace and straight into my eyes. I knew I had him, and I slowly, limply mouthed the words: ‘Help. Help me. Help.’ The police officer narrowed his eyes, looked at me keenly and paused for a few seconds. Then he screwed up his mouth and smiled, uncertainly, and he walked off.”
This perspective, this context, so chillingly described in the opening chapter of his book, makes Adrian Tempany’s account of football’s transformation since 1989 a very unique and personal one. There’s a bitterness there at the handling of the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster by the Thatcher government and a sadness at the way in which the beautiful game then fell into the clutches of all-powerful pay TV. There are wistful reminiscences of carefree childhood and the ease of access to live football, set against accounts of modern stadia in the post-Taylor era with ever-aging crowds. “… the price to be paid for all-seater stadiums is that young adults are disappearing from the match” notes Tempany with evident sorrow.
But there are rays of hope, too. And Tempany finds these in Germany.
He visits fans and supporters groups at Schalke 04, HSV and St Pauli and talks fondly of the community spirit and democratic values he finds there. He faultlessly describes the membership structure of German clubs and the 50+1 rule and, much more importantly, conveys well what it means to the fans he meets to be members of their clubs and not merely ‘customers’ or ‘stakeholders’.
And for the first time in over 20 years, he watches a football match standing up. At Schalke in Gelsenkirchen. And loves how the fans there look out for one another: “In front of me on the Nordkurve a woman in her 30s was stood with her little girl, perhaps eight or nine years old. People in front had stood apart slightly so the little girl could see. She was rapt in the game.” And she wasn’t the only one wholly absorbed by the communal experience. Tempany was accompanied on his visit to Gelsenkirchen by his brother Martin, a Forest fan. “It is one thing to be welcomed into the heart of a Champions League club, as I had been at Schalke,” he says at the end of this chapter, “but Martin did not accompany me behind the scenes: he simply went to the Schalke-Frankfurt match, stood on a terrace with some football supporters and drank a few beers. His, if anything was the more genuine football experience – and he felt more connected to football in one weekend in Gelsenkirchen than he had been in Nottingham for years.”
In England, Tempany clearly feels, the connection between fan and football has been lost.
In examining how that has happened over the last quarter of a century, he lays the blame squarely at the feet of the Premier League, Sky and the football authorities that allowed them to turn the people’s game into a much-hyped, over-priced consumer product. He speaks to experts in child behaviour about the way in which ‘angst’ in British society has led to children having much less freedom in their lives, which he sees reflected in the low numbers of young fans now going to football games on their own. He covers the good work done to try to check the loss of clubs as true assets to their community by the likes of Andy Burnham, the Football Task Force and community schemes at clubs like Orient, Charlton and Spurs. But in this section of his book he nevertheless concludes that many clubs “have largely ceased to function as a forum for socialisation. The people no longer have a claim on the clubs at the heart of their communities because they can no longer afford to support them.”
As a campaigner for the introduction of safe standing areas in all-seater stadia, I was naturally also very interested in Tempany’s views on the campaign. As he recounts his experience of standing at the game in Gelsenkirchen, he notes that it is gathering momentum. He notes, too, that the Hillsborough Family Support Group is opposed to a return to standing. And he adds: “While I understand their view, I disagree – primarily because their loved ones were not killed by terracing, and for the authorities to suggest that they were only allowed the real culprits to get away with the deaths of the 96.” Indeed, Tempany maintains, it was this “false narrative” that reshaped English football. This false message that “standing was a disaster waiting to happen”.
“It wasn’t,” says Tempany. “The clubs had merely to get their houses in order, and the authorities to admit their failings around Hillsborough.”
Writing the final pages of ‘And the Sun Shines Now’ in the spring of 2016, Tempany looks forward with cautious optimism to an era when perhaps the authorities would start to see things differently. He notes that The FA had provided Wembley as a venue for the year’s annual Supporters’ Summit put on by the Football Supporters Federation and Supporters Direct. But although he sees this as a welcome sign that the Association was now more willing to engage with supporters and listen to their concerns about the state of the game today, he still adds a note of caution, saying “it remains to be seen whether the truth about Hillsborough will encourage football’s governing body to acknowledge that so much of the modern game was built on a falsehood.”
You sense that he fears that just like that policeman who looked straight at him as he mouthed a cry for help from the Leppings Lane terrace, the authorities might likewise ignore the calls for greater dialogue from the fans and turn away.
As in the books by David Conn and David Goldblatt, a sense of melancholy thus also pervades much of ‘And the Sun Shines Now’. As his excellent book draws to a close, Tempany is not able to give us any definite hope that things will change, but in his final remarks he says it’s high time they should:
“It’s three years since Margaret Thatcher died. But the ‘mob’ that she and her henchmen once vilified, at Orgreave and at Hillsborough, are still here, and we have been cleared of all charges levelled against us.
Now, can we have our ball back, please?”
It’s a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree.
And the Sun Shines Now: How Hillsborough and the Premier League Changed Britain by Adrian Tempany is published by Faber & Faber and is a must-read for anyone with an interest in ‘how Hillsborough and the Premier League changed Britain’.
August 12th, 2016. The Adam Smith Institute, a leading Westminster think tank, concludes in a new report on safe standing that it is time for the government to lift the ban on standing at all-seater grounds in England and Wales.It's time to remove standing ban, says Adam Smith Institute
"Tracey Crouch and the government should consider lifting the ban on standing in the Championship and Premiership, and allowing clubs to convert seats to safe standing areas, under the guidelines laid out in the Green Guide, ensuring safety, comfort, and proper sightlines. The government has a chance to deliver a liberalization that will be popular across the board."
That's the conclusion drawn in a report on safe standing produced by the Adam Smith Institute, which bills itself as Britain's leading free market libertarian think tank.
The key points of the report state:
Saturday 16th July 2016: a red letter day in the safe standing campaign. Celtic open the UK’s first rail seating section for their pre-season friendly against VfL Wolfsburg.
Celtic open UK's first rail seating section
The 2,975 green rail seats at Celtic Park went into use for the first time – or rather the rails above them did – as Brendan Rogers’ men stepped up their preparations for the new season with a tough friendly against the 2015 German Cup winners and Bundesliga runners-up.
Reaction to the new facility from the fans was 100% positive, as the pictures at the foot of the page show. Club officials, too, declared themselves very happy with the rail seating section, the installation of which their media team captured in this video.
The seats were lowered for the first time for the club’s Champions League qualifier on the following Wednesday (20th July) against Lincoln Red Imps and locked backed up for standing use three days later for another friendly, this time against Leicester City, thus demonstrating the great flexibility of stadium configuration that the rail seats provide.After a thoroughly successful first three games for the rail seating section at Celtic Park, it must now be hoped that this shining example encourages clubs in England and Wales to lobby the relevant authorities to be allowed to create similar areas.
Read a full case study on the Celtic installation here
Picture gallery: Celtic fans give the thumbs up to safer seating for standing fans