Michael Baddeley tactfully addresses the taboo subject of safe standing in football stadiums in England.

This isn’t an easy subject to address at many clubs and that’s no different at Liverpool. In fact, it’s even harder to address for obvious reasons.

As many of you will know, at the recent AGM meeting for the Spirit of Shankly supporters group there was a vote about the introduction of railed seating. The vote proved that fans would favour the idea.

As a result, it seems that discussions will be taking place and both members of the Hillsborough Family Support Group and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC) will be given the opportunity to share their thought. For me, this is a massive step.

Some of the families who lost loved ones at Hillsborough back in 1989 have opposed the move, which is understandable, but the HJC has shown it’s willingness to have a “full and objective debate”.

As I said, I can completely understand why some of these families don’t want to see the return of the standing sections. The events of 1989 will always be a major factor that is addressed when safe-standing is discussed.

But there seems to be a number of issues that people question when the subject is mentioned, but before I look at these I thought it’d be best to explain how this seating would actually work.

How would it work?

There are a few options to which method clubs could use, but it is expected that they would install something called railed seating. It is currently used in a number of countries like Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Netherlands and more recently Scotland, just to name a handful of the many countries. It’s even started to be used in Russia which says a lot about the safety as this is definitely a country stuck in the dark ages of football.

Anyway, clubs would place safety barriers and a seat on every row, these seats would be bolted upright and the supporters would stand between the barriers. Each fan would still receive a ticket and a seat number so things wouldn’t really be that much different to what it is now.

Safety fears

There seems to be two major points when it comes to reasons not to install the railed seating. They are  “Hillsborough was caused by standing” and “English football’s dark ages would return.”

Tony Evans, a fan who was at Hillsborough, said in a video for BT Sport filmed at Anfield, “One of the fundamental myths of Hillsborough is that standing killed people. It didn’t. Bad policing killed people and a stadium that didn’t have a safety certificate.” It was due to incompetence at it’s highest level. It was due to the animalistic treatment of fans, herded into pens.

But things are different now. The standards of policing in the UK is one of the best in the world when it comes to football. In recent years we’ve held two Champions League finals and will hold Euro 2020 Semi-Finals and Final. We wouldn’t be given these momentous occasions if police weren’t capable of controlling big crowds and football matches.

Another main cause back in ’89 was due to the safety issues with the stadium. Never again would we see a stadium with standards like that. The powers that may be would come down on anyone without the correct measures in place like a tonne of bricks. It just wouldn’t happen again.

Many are under the impression that the return of safe standing would also see the return of disorderly behaviour. We get idiots in every ground and as I said before, the policing is a lot better now, but we also have a number of things that can stop the anti-social behaviour.

As Greg Clarke, Chairman of the FA said, “That’s your seat. If you leave it and run on the pitch, do something bad, run back to your seat, we’ll get you. CCTV, we’ll get you.” We know longer have to worry about these things. These people can pinpoint the troublemakers within minutes, eject them and give them bans. There is nothing to worry about.

The Taylor Report was correct to suggest all-seater stadiums nearly 30 years ago. But we’ve moved on and so has the technology from that time. We are far more advanced.

What would the positives be?

We don’t have to look much further than Germany to see the positives of the railed seating. We all know about the famous Dortmund atmosphere and the number of times we hear people banging on about the ticket prices over there, well you don’t need me to tell you about that. Well, maybe as a club we could replicate that?

I don’t get to visit Anfield as often as much as I did in the past due to work and how expensive the tickets are. Out of the few times I have been recently, though, the atmosphere has been pretty poor.

We all rave about the great Anfield atmosphere, but let’s be honest, when have we seen that recently? The European nights vs United, Dortmund and Villarreal were phenomenal, but that’s it.

We all want this amazing atmosphere but a lot of people have been priced out of going. The tourists are now more common at the ground and the electricity around the ground takes a hit because of that. I don’t mind these people coming, but ultimately the famous Anfield atmosphere takes a hit because of this.

Obviously, if we install this railed seating then the capacity of Anfield would go up. If we trial it and it works then we can start to install more and more. We’d start to get more fans through the door so we’d make more in match day sales, thus meaning ticket prices could go down and the atmosphere would undoubtedly improve.

I don’t expect the prices to reach those of Munich, Dortmund, Wolfsburg etc. But just taking a little bit off the current prices would be brilliant.

Overall, I understand the emotional reasons as to why the thought of safe standing shouldn’t be entertained. But times have changed, we’re ready for the comeback of the terraces.

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