Be vocal – and take a stand

By Jim Potter 17/03/2016  0 Comments  [Jump to last]

It appears that if you strain your eyes towards the dim and distant future you might just, if the light is right, actually be able to see the silhouette of a new stadium flickering tantalisingly on the horizon – or is that the modernisation of Goodison Park?

You will have your own preference on which option suits you (and our club’s future) best. Mine is the latter and for ‘The Grand Old Lady’ to be renovated and introduced to the 21st century – as I see it as Everton’s spiritual home and a place I have strong emotional ties to.

The Kings Dock (sadly) and Kirby (thankfully) are history. I now have waking nightmares of being in some strange, soulless edifice to which I have no attachment. A neutral shell that has no character, spirit, heart or history.

I know that with redevelopment there are a myriad of problems not least the local residents, St Lukes, etc etc,,. And should minds and wallets far greater than mine decide that the best option is a move to a new stadium within Liverpool, then so be it, I’ll just have to hope it grows on me. We all know something has to be done and when it is – we must aim for the stars (ensuring we by-pass Uranus).

However, I digress from what is meant to be the main reason I started typing. Whatever your view point I would love to see our new or freshly improved home with a standing area / areas. This is potentially an evocative subject given what tragically happened to our neighbours in 1989. But, that was 1989 – a different age with different problems. A crumbling stadium, overcrowding, Police incompetence, the fear of hooliganism, a wrong gate being opened and some terrible luck.

This led to the Taylor Report and subsequently all stadiums being seated. To me it was a knee jerk reaction from Mrs Thatcher’s government who, let’s face it, were always suspicious of the working man’s game. Sadly, very few such ‘working men’ can now afford to attend a match – and certainly not regularly with kids in tow. Consequently a generation have been excluded. There were other options at the time, as there are now.

There has been 'safe standing' at lots of European grounds for many years now. As UEFA demand all seated stadia for their games the standing areas have to be able to accommodate seats for these matches. There are various options out there but the one I think could suit us best is called the 'rail seat'. It is a metal seat that can be locked into a vertical position by officials prior to a ‘standing game’ or be unlocked to become a hinged seat for a ‘sitting game’. The seat is held within a metal frame that acts as a stanchion support to lean on – which in turn acts as a anti crush barrier. As these barriers are approximately a yard apart from each other it allows fans to stand several deep during a game but does not allow the ‘surging’ to occur which can often lead to injuries after a goal is scored. See this example of Hoffenheim's away enclosure from the SafeStandingRoadShow.co.uk website:

Only a few clubs, with perhaps Liverpool understandably amongst them, are against it. Yet ironically, significant portions of the Kop contain fans who permanently stand. I would suggest that in such situations, i.e. being stood in a seated area, it is far more dangerous when a goal is scored than in an old style terrace. Officials of any clubs that accept this on-going situation must be aware of the dangers involved but many tolerate it as they understand the fans’ natural desire to be stood up, to sing and to engage in the tribalism.

The re-introduction of standing certainly does not preclude safety. It would encourage cheaper tickets, the chance for those less well off to attend and in my view enhance the match overall by providing a much better atmosphere.

No British Government will lightly reverse a decision that appears to have saved lives. However there is the possible opportunity to run trials and we, with a new stadium or renovation, could lead the way in seeking an exemption and proposing our ground be used under stringent Health & Safety criteria whilst data is then gathered.

Those who want to sit can continue to do so – without the hassle of having uncooperative fellow fans choosing to stand in front of them and possibly their kids for the whole of a game.

Remember standing is permitted at rugby union and rugby league venues, speedway and horse-racing as well as at football grounds outside the top two divisions. From what I have read such a trial would not require a new act of Parliament – just an amendment or the agreement of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Their view is as follows: “We accept that some supporters miss the tradition, character and history of some of our former grounds and many are in favour of the return of standing areas. It is generally accepted, however, that the majority of football grounds are safer and more comfortable than they were twenty years ago. Before any change in the legislation, there would have to be a very clear demand, as well as very clear evidence that any such change meets stringent safety standards, presented from all the relevant authorities responsible for stadium safety, including the police, as well as it being clear that this is something that all parties want.”

Every census or survey of fans throughout England and Wales consistently shows anything from 8 to 9 out of 10 supporters want to re-introduce standing areas at their club.

We are the customers and we have a voice. If we want it.

Could we not, through Toffeeweb (perhaps in conjunction with other Everton fan sites) petition the club to propose Everton as one of these trials when we build our new stadium / renovate our existing one? Post-trial, if everything is deemed to be safe we may once again be allowed to stand, sing and support our club in a protected, atmospheric and vibrant ‘spec’.

Lyndon, depending on your views and those who may go on to post below – would this be viable? Could we look to influence the club in this direction?

You can also e-mail your local MP on writetothem.com requesting they look into safe standing and look to support it.

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