|Standing Up For Your Rights|
|Written by Mark W|
|Tuesday, 11 December 2012 22:26|
There are two football stories dominating the media today with 13 clubs backing calls for a return to safe standing, while the PFA have mooted the idea of clubs installing netting to protect players from missiles. Both issues simply highlight how football fans are treated differently from other sections of society.
The call for safe standing is a no-brainer for me. Standing should never have been outlawed in the top two divisions and bringing it back should be an option available to all clubs.
I am well aware of the sensitive nature of this argument, particularly amongst Liverpool fans affected by the Hillsborough disaster but you have to look at these things objectively. Hillsborough was not caused by people standing. We have had it confirmed recently that there were a number of failings which led to the disaster but ultimately, it was caused by fences. The fans in the Leppings Lane end were crushed due to the fact that they had nowhere to go. If there had been no fences, there is nothing to suggest that there would have been any deaths. The overcrowding in there was due to critical errors by the police and stewards.
Technology has moved on and even if you accept that standing in the form we used to have will never return, safe standing areas have proved hugely successful in Germany. Why this technology has been repeatedly ignored by the powers that be in this country has to be questioned.
It seems that as a football fan, I do not have the right to choose how I watch a game whereas if I want to attend another event, I suddenly have that right. Not only have venues for other forms of entertainment not had to convert to seating, new venues with huge standing areas can still be built. In the last couple of years both Salford Reds and St Helens Rugby League teams have built new stadia with significant terraces. Not only that, but while Wembley Stadium has to be all seated for football matches, it is fine for 15,000 people to stand on the pitch for a rock concert. Either standing is dangerous or it is not, you cannot claim that it is only dangerous if you are watching football.
I should add here that I am not someone who believes that the reintroduction of terracing will reduce the cost of attending games. There will be a cost with installing terraces and I have no doubt this will get passed on to fans. I do, however still think that large numbers will choose to stand. It is interesting to note that in recent years the price of standing at gigs has risen above the cost of sitting for big artists, clear evidence that demand is for the experience, not the price.
To me, there is no comparison between sitting and standing at a game. The atmosphere that can be made by a few hundred stood together can easily outstrip tens of thousands sat down. At the same time, I have witnessed my parents have games ruined for them by fans standing in front of them in all seater grounds. Offer the opportunity to stand and you should remove this problem.
The idea of putting up netting is equally discriminatory. Why do some people insist on tarring all football fans with the same brush? It was disgraceful that someone threw a coin at Rio Ferdinand on Sunday but what has that got to do with me just because I like to watch football?
If I go into town on a Friday night and assault someone, I will be arrested and if the press take note, they will refer to me as a thug. If I was to commit the assault inside a football ground on a Saturday afternoon, I would still be arrested but the press would probably refer to football hooligans. Exactly the same act sees me blamed in one instance but football fans generalised in the other. Likewise, I ask the question whether should someone throw a coin at an actor in a West End play, would there be calls for audiences to be searched or barriers to be put up to protect actors in all theatres across London?
The same kind of discrimination exists in other areas too. It is illegal to drink alcohol within sight of a football pitch at a game in England. It is not illegal to drink in the stand at rugby or cricket. It is illegal to sell on a ticket to a friend for a professional at less than face value. If you sell a ticket for any other event at twice the face value to a total stranger, you have committed no offence.
I’m not claiming that these laws have all been brought in without reason. In the 1970s and 80s there were so many problems with hooliganism that some emergency legislation was required but football is not in the same place now that it was then. Maybe it is time to stop treating us all like animals and instead show us the respect that just we deserve.
Please note that these are my own views and do not represent the views of www.ernieflag.co.uk
Please feel free to follow me on Twitter… @oldham_mark