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Atmosphere and Stadium Design

By Peter Beigan :  21/01/2008 :  Comments (34) :
In response to recent posts relating to atmosphere at the match, as someone who has spent many years behind the goal in the Gwladys Street, I know the exact reason why there's less chanting now. In the early- to mid-90s we never used to sell out so the Lower Gwladys St was unreserved seating; this meant that all the singers could congregate at the back, where it was nice and dark and hidden away. They also stood up all game, which is key. I've been to many a game were the singing was non-stop throughout the entire match.

The only complaint was that that the acoustics of the underside of the Upper Gwladys, which was directly over the singers in the Lower, was not great for projecting out the songs, but at least it was some form of acoustics and there was singing.

When the attendances shot up, unreserved seating ended. Nevertheless those who wanted to sing would still get their tickets for there, so you'd only get the a few non-singers mixed up with them. Although not ideal, this was far from being the main problem. The main problem was that fans stopped standing up. The reason for this is all due to a design fault in the the Lower Gwladys. When fans on the last 2 rows stood up their view of the entire opposite end of the pich was obstructed by a horizontal supporting beam several rows in front. Therefore when fans did try to stand in front of them, they understandably asked fans to sit down. Standing up is the key to atmosphere but as this could not happen the singing ended.

Before you think about the problem being solved in the new stadium... think again. If our singers congregated at the back of the new Lower Gwladys then they will have the executive boxes directly behind them. This will put the fans off from standing up for sustained periods. It will even cause an obstruction to those executive in the executive boxes behind. Do you really think they'd be happy to spend 90 mins on their feet with their new business partner after paying all that money out for a box? Of course not, they'd get the stewards to eject those forming the first line of standing.

The only time standing can happen then is when the fans at the front choose to stand up when the ball is by the goalmouth, causing the rest to stand. This is the only time you get atmosphere in the Lower Gwladys now; however, the songs will struggle even more to project out than now. The proximity of the roof is just too far from the fans in the Lower Gwladys to be of any assistance.

So our singers cannot go in the lower tier ? but what about the upper? Well, standing up is the key for singing, but standing up is deemed a significant safety risk in the upper tiers. Aston Villa are one team who do have their singers in the upper tier, but they say it is a lot harder to orchestrate. There is no concertina effect that you have in the lower so you don't have the advantage of fans standing up now and then anyway, leaving the back to just stay stood. All the Villa fans I have spoken to all say that they rely on a row of fans to purposely stand up so that the rest behind can. It is not easy to get that, it has to be organised rather than spontaneous.

They also find that the singing is just confined to those standing, so it is very rare to have the entire stand singing as one as there is no concertina effect from one tier to another. Villa fans believe a serious error was made by not having a large single tier.

These problems are shared by other fans who who have similar designs to Kirkby. Rangers and Blackburn have both resorted to bringing a drum, and Celtic are struggling in their attempt to create a singing section. Man Utd fans are organised in their attempt to purposely stand and have a huge number of fans willing to do this following years of their fanzine promoting it, but again this is very orchestrated and therefore relies on purposeful attempt to stand. Imagine going to your seat next game and purposely standing in order to encourage everyone behind you too. Not easy, the Man Utd fanzines constantly try to encourage this. However, this has led to a number of ejections from stewards due to the inconveniance standing causes to the executives directly behind them. Sound familiar?

So why were the non-overlapping stands built this way then. Well when the Taylor report came along, they did not expect fans wanting to stand in front of their seat in order to help generate an atmosphere. The Kirkby style of End Stand (non-overlapping two tier) has failed in Britain because of this, the design is 15-20 years out of date. Yet Everton, oblivious to all this, go and choose this style of End Stand!

You see Cologne has kombi terracicing, so fans are standing up anyway, in both tiers. That is one less thing to think about in stadium design. We don't have kombi terracing here, that is why that design does not work here.

Now some of you may be thinking that they don't want to stand up in front of their seat; well that's fine, all we want is just for the End Stands to be designed in a way that does not discourage standing, with one of those End Stands to have standing tolerated, therefore everyone has a choice. There is also a campaign (see http://www.standupsitdown.co.uk) to have standing up in front of seat to be tolerated in one stand/lower tier in each stadium.

If you care in the slightest about the singing at Everton, then the design must change. If we could have a large single tier behind both goals with the executive boxes doubled up on the side stands then not only will we increase the number of executive boxes but we will also finally have a stadium capable of a great atmosphere.

Reader Comments

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Michael Hunt
1   Posted 22/01/2008 at 06:08:15

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Very enlightening Peter. This sounds like a problem with Kirkby I was certainly unaware of. It is imperitive the Kirkby Stadium will be conducive to an atmosphere befitting our club. At the end of the day, if the atmosphere is brilliant, it will make us settle in a whole lot easier and help put us on the map in our new home whilst stiking fear into the opposition sides.
Peter Corcoran
2   Posted 22/01/2008 at 06:15:55

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So you can’t sing if you are sitting down. Do you sing out of your rectum?

I agree that physically an individual does sing better when standing thn sitting down, but let’s face we are not Pavarotti are we so it really does not make that much difference to a non-skilled singer.

A load of waffle just to try to justify standing up.

Face it - standing up is a thing of the past and move on.
Erik Dols
3   Posted 22/01/2008 at 07:55:31

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I live in Holland. Just as in England, since the early nineties terraces were banned and all stadiums in the highest two divisions (well that are the only two professional competitions anyway) are all-seater. Except for one club who are allowed to have a very tiny section of terraces since a year of two. This as a controlled test to see if terraces should be allowed again, but that?s not my point.

Most bigger Dutch teams have sections of the stadium where, despite of these places being seats, fans are allowed and encouraged to stand the entire match. If you buy a ticket for this section, you know that most if not all people at this section will stand up the entire match so you won?t have time to take your seat. I think they even print it on the ticket. Obviously these are the places where the singing starts most of the time. For example, at PSV this is the lower section of a two-section-tier end with executive-seats in between the sections. I?ve never heard of any executive complaining about sight-lines, and as I love to read all about stadiums, I?m sure I would have read it somewhere if PSV had problems with this. As far as I know (but I admit I only visit the PSV-stadium occasionaly) these boxes are the hottest in the stadium because a lot of executives love to be close to where the greatest atmosphere is.

If you look carefully here, you?ll see there is a section of executive places between the lower and the upper tier. It is possible to create atmosphere in the current Kirkby-design. It?s just a simple matter of desinging those boxes in such a way that sitting executives can see over standing average-Joes. And, most importantly: communicate it. Executives know their place will be behind a section of standing fans, and we ?simple? people know we?ll have to stand in that section. I don?t see the problem.

To create a great atmosphere, the roofing structure is more important than if it is a single or multi-tier stand. I think Tom Hughes wrote a piece about that somewhere in the nineties, isn?t it available here on Toffeeweb?
David Marsden
4   Posted 22/01/2008 at 08:47:34

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As the Mrs. is a Newcastle fan I get forced to watch them a lot as well the blue boys and the Newcastle fans especially away from home stand up the whole match, this definitely improves the singing and atmosphere. I cannot see any reason why consenting fans cannot stand in a seating area by choice, and by choice I mean buying the ticket knowing it will be standing.
Mark Stone
5   Posted 22/01/2008 at 09:03:26

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David - that must be why the bizzies tell away fans at St James to sit down whenever you stand up. So you can?t create any atmosphere and get behind your team!
Pavil Benson
6   Posted 22/01/2008 at 08:59:09

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Re Peter Corcoran:
You?re missing the point, it is about allowing fans to stand up in front of your seat, not a call for a return to terrcaing. Fans all over the country have discovered that standing up is key to the singing. There are many explanations put forward for this, when fans are sitting down they can feel more self-concious about starting off songs and joining in with them. Fans feed off the emotion of other fans, when everyone?s sitting down, the atmosphere is always far more subdued because of this.
John Lloyd
7   Posted 22/01/2008 at 09:42:39

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Good explanation from P.Benson, to peter corcoran who’s daft comment shows he has either never been to match or never been involved enough to sing/chant!!

So its not a load of waffle & why are you telling people to move on?? its just some people giving opinions on something to do with thier club/stadium on a website?? sad get.
David Smith
8   Posted 22/01/2008 at 09:34:56

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Re the ability to sing and the flow of passion whilst sitting down.

Here’s a rhetorical question : at rock concerts, are "fans" sitting down or generally standing up getting excited ?

Fact : sitting down has a calming, numbing effect. Standing up is the opposite.
It’s as simple as that.

A return to terracing = a step in the past ?
You’re damn right and it’s the right step if we don’t want football to become the ballet of the masses.

I was lucky to be there in the lower Gwladys in April 1985 with about 10 school mates and I’ve never sung so much and been so excited in all my life. Me the shy little boy. On the third goal, someone actually lifted me up like a trophy and I was screaming with joy.

Make sure all you lucky sods in there tomorrow night make the atmosphere as good as possible. I think the most potent song at the time (’85) was "We’re on the march with Howie’s army...."
Sung in unison by a few thousand and echo-ed by a few thousand in the surrounding and opposite stands.
Magic.

Anyway, sorry about the reminiscient jabber....

It’s us against the world and the world ain’t got a chance.

COYB.
Erik Dols
9   Posted 22/01/2008 at 09:54:42

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David, that’s no jabber at all. It’s memories like that, that keep me falling in love with football and Everton over and over again. It’s stories like that, amongst other things, that make this site so great. I love reading it. You don’t have to apologize for it as I expect most visitors feel the same about it as I do...
Pavil Benson
10   Posted 22/01/2008 at 10:25:22

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Re Eric Dols

The raising of executive boxes to above the standing height of the fans on the last row will help. However, this is nowhere near enough. The distance of the roof to the fans in the lower tier is too far to help spread the songs around the stand quickly, this will require a greater participation from fans before a song gets loud in order for this to happen.

There are generally 3 types of fans in England when it comes to singing: those who are happy to start off songs and join in with them before it gets loud ie the vocal element; those who only like to join in when everyone else does; and those who aren?t interested. Depending on what?s happening on the pitch these numbers can change during the course of a match.

At Everton, the vast majority, fall into the second category - those who like to sing when it?s loud. We only have a relatively small amount of the vocal element (first type), which currently locate themselves at the back of Block 4 of the lower Gwladys St. In Holland there is a far larger vocal element, this leads to greater participate in songs straight away and for sustained periods, so you will be able to fill an entire end with this type of fan, we won?t. We therefore need our vocal element to be able to stand and to be situated directly under the roof, to amplify the songs to the rest of the stand to the fans who only like to join in when it?s loud.

If standing in front of seat was tolerated in England, then we still wouldn?t have the entire stand on it?s feet for the entire match, only during certain periods of the match. We would only have our vocal element at the back of the stand willing to stand during the entire match. Assuming that the executive were raised and so the vocal element were fine to stand, the singing just wouldn?t be loud as the roof is too far from then.

As in England the singing in the main is just restricted to those standing then at best in Kirkby we will have 30 rows of fans standing under a roof which is a whole tier above them. If it was a large single tiered stand. Then at best we will have 60-70 rows of fans standing with more fans directly under the roof, far better.
and therefore by order of Nil Satis Nisi Opitimum, it is the design we should have.

Karl Masters
11   Posted 22/01/2008 at 10:23:25

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I’m not apologising for saying this again because it’s True!

That design for Kirkby is a load of crap and this is another well explained reason why by Peter Beigan.

So little thought has gone into this design. Kenwright claims he ’drove the designers mad’ by adding things. Like what? Searchlights, cheesy People’s Club signs everywhere, video screens facing the busy main road outside ( why for God’s sake? ) loads of pitchside emergency escape tunnels that break up the rows of seating and are not deployed in other new stadia, no nods to the past ( the tower, criss cross balconies etc ) at all, giant great glass screens that will be filthy ( look at the side of the current main stand) in 5-10 years etc.

But the biggest failing is making it the same on all 4 sides. Nothing to distinguish it ( Goodison is instantly recognisable and unique to any football fan in the world ), no Home end that should be bigger than the other end and encourage singing and chanting, no obvious main stand, the whole thing is a bland and totally uninspiring design. The first time I visited Goodison I was inspired. Kirkby will not have the same effect on a newcomer.
Brian Baker
12   Posted 22/01/2008 at 11:21:55

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As singing is an important part of generating an atomsphere at the ground, why don’t the club get actively involved in organising seating so that the main body of singers (hard core Gladwys streeters) are right behind the goal with suspended microphones so its heard in every corner of the ground.
Karl Masters
13   Posted 22/01/2008 at 11:30:01

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Sensible suggestion Brian, bar the micropohones. There is only about 1% chance of it happening though. If they put that much detailed thought in, the design would be different anyway. Cynical, but true I?m sad to say.

Even bloody Chelsea have Fans? forums that actually get sensible ideas adopted. I don?t know what happens at ours, but nothing sensible seems to come out of them.
Peter Corcoran
14   Posted 22/01/2008 at 10:37:52

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P.Benson
You are right. I did miss the point about standing in fron of your seat. What I didn’t want was to go back to the old days of terracing.
I have probably been to more matches than some of you have had hot dinners - home and away and joined in the singing (and still do).
I remember Hillsborough for the League Cup replay in 1978. Behind that goal was a death trap long before our friends from across the park suffered so badly. I am sure that none of us want any chance of that ever happening again, which is why all of your ideas are very interesting -if a little bizarre on occasion.

I am sure we will all be singing at the top of our voices on Wednesday whether or not we are standing.
Pavil Benson
15   Posted 22/01/2008 at 11:39:29

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Re Brian Baker

Unfortunately there?s nowhere for a singing section to go in the Kirkby design. If in the lower tier they are right in front of the executives (their boss even!, mind you it will surely be used as the police control room). They will still be too far from the roof for any decent reverberation. It won?t be in upper due to Health and Safety
Rob Jones
16   Posted 22/01/2008 at 12:16:07

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Karl! Hmm lets see why would a multiplex thats trying to get as much revenue in as possible go right in front of a main road? My god thats gotta be the hardest question of the 21st Century, FFS Get a grip and stop trying to find every little gripe about Kirkby
Neil McKinney
17   Posted 22/01/2008 at 13:09:09

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A lot of valid points made above and some interesting debate.

I do wonder though if we are putting a little too much importance on stadium design towards atmosphere. I struggle to believe that this much debate was afforded to acoustics and atmosphere when previous stadiums were built.

Many things can be done to encourage singing and to improve acoustics, but the main source of atmosphere are the fans. We all have the ability to shout and sing so surely it’s just a decision on our part to make an effort. Why do people fee shame or embarrassment when they sing? We all come on here asking for more songs and better atmosphere, yet we then think we need to be in a particular part of the ground to encourage people to sing.

I agree that stadium design should take into account acoustics. I agree that a section of terracing or optional standing is worth exploring. I don’t agree that the above matters are the priority for stadium design.

We have the power to create atmosphere and whilst all of the above suggestions would possibly improve and encourage atmosphere, the responsibility lies with the fans to get behind the team. Why do people feel nervous about backing the team when everyone around them has paid upwards of £30 to do exactly that. When someone near you starts up on their own, JOIN IN! Don’t hang them out to dry!

Notice how the complaints of atmosphere at Eastlands have disappeared since Man City’s upturn in form this season. 75,000 fans at Old Trafford, in what can be described as an "old style" football stadium and sometimes you can hear a pin drop. Ask Alex Ferguson. Stadium design has an effect on atmosphere, it does not create it!!

Whether there will be an atmosphere at Kirkby (if it happens) is down to us. Take some responsibility and start singing now! We haven’t had this much to sing about in a long time, so there’s no excuse.

COYB!!
Karl Masters
18   Posted 22/01/2008 at 13:35:05

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Rob Jones. I think you may have misunderstood. I was referring to the big screens in the corners of the stadium with images of Labone receiving the FA Cup etc. They face outwards, but wouldn’t it make more sense to watch them from inside the stadium rather than passing in your car?

And by the way. I am not looking for every little gripe, but detail matters and if we must go there with all the associated transport probems that will bring us supporters, at least make it the very best possible. I am ultra positive about on the pitch matters, but off it I fear we may be making a big long term mistake.
Tom Hughes
19   Posted 22/01/2008 at 13:39:04

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Neil,
Stadium design has a major effect on the atmosphere, and certainly the propensity for singing to spread. The old Kop for instance was almost perfect, High density, high capacity, and a low but cavernous roof to hold it all in. The Gwladys Street relies on much smaller acoustic enclaves and the raw energy and commitment of its patrons. The fragmented sections and high roofs hinder things further. It’s probably too much to ask for the fans to be "up for it" every match..... that has never been the case at any stadium, therefore better acoustics, and/or distribution of supporters can greatly enhance a venue’s atmosphere and how we interact with our fellow blues, and therefore our match-going experience.
Neil McKinney
20   Posted 22/01/2008 at 14:07:24

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Tom - Fair points mate. I agree, stadium design can and will affect atmosphere. However, it appears that acoustics and atmosphre must sometimes contradict other factors of stadium design and compromises must be made. My point about Old Trafford was that the fans are a huge part of the atmosphere, 75,000 of them in there and it’s like Sunday School. Why is this? Stadium design?

I am not trying to rubbish the arguments of stadium design related to atmosphere that many above have made. I am just trying to point out that it is easy to blame the stadium for a lack of atmosphere when usually (as you have said) it’s the fans mood that day and the lack of effort to sing. I have been at GP lately in a number of different spots, and at times people seem afraid to sing. Why is this? The roof?

GP has been held up by many as a great stadium for atmosphere, yet people above point out that it has problems. Why do we believe Kirkby will be any different.

I have read many of your comments before with interest Tom. You sound like you know a bit about this stuff and I respect your opinion. My point was less about Kirkby and more about people getting behind the team and not being afraid to sing. Acoustics have never stopped me coming home from a game with no voice.

Problems with Kirkby appear to be many and varied. NSNO it will never be, the money side will see to that. If we do go there people will have to accept that not everything will be "top of the range". Let’s face it, even with its history and atmosphere, GP is anything but "top of the range".

COYB!!
Derek Turnbull
21   Posted 22/01/2008 at 14:07:10

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Neil, we’re not all extroverts!


I like to sing but when you’re sitting down you feel more exposed, it’s easier when everyone’s standing!

Pavil Benson
22   Posted 22/01/2008 at 14:28:08

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Neil, you?ve half answered it yourself. Standing up makes all the difference. When you sit many fans are more afraid to sing as they feel more on show. It is nerve racking starting off a song, but it is a lot easier when everyone is stood.

The wrong design can discourage standing, ie a row of executive boxes directly behind you!
Allan Prenderghast
23   Posted 22/01/2008 at 14:47:35

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I recently attended the Oldham game and had to spend most of the game listening to my girlfirend wishing she was sat with the Oldham fans!. No chance!.

After a holiday to Rome last October I took in a Champs League game and Sat in the Curva Sud, a few Man Utd comments aside the locals were friendly and courteous. (Maybe it was more to do with what 90% of them were openly smoking! haha)
What struck me was the orchestration of chanting that occurs at their games. They have possibly 15-20 volunteers who sing in unison spread about the barriers. These people really get the crowd going and give direction to the masses who then follow to intimidating effect. Quite a sight!

It got me thinking. Surely there must be some way of our club asking for volunteers to do a similar thing on match day or a supporters group doing somehting similar? If I am to attend more matches, this would be extremley helpful as my girlfriend would moan a lot less! Answers on a postcard
Tom Hughes
24   Posted 22/01/2008 at 14:36:49

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Neil,
Simon Inglis wrote that GP was a special occasion venue...... great atmosphere on the big occasion. When everyone is up for it, all these seperate acoustic pens under stands and up in the gods unite. Because of the overlapping stands we are all on top of the pitch in relative terms, and this also adds to the resultant din. However, the proportions and the size of our singing areas and how they relate to the reflective surfaces above is not currently condusive to the type of Chanting/singing that made some other stadia/stands famous. We are probably more famous for the roar that used to eminate from our relatively wide open terraces, hence the comparatively small repertoire of songs (which suits me tbh). Generally I feel that a regular big atmosphere is far more likely if the acoustics encourage it, and if the general noise level is enhanced by the geometry of the stands.

Old traffords problems are probably multiple, and in fact similar in geometry terms to Kirkby...... Stepped 2-tier end stands, with the rearmost rows miles from the pitch, and the whole bottom tier too distant from the roof. Also the make-up of the fans in these areas that were formerly for the fanatics only. Replicating terrace culture in these new stands has rarely been achieved with any success. In fact the St end is probably one of the closest, and we all know how much of a pale shadow it is of its former self.
Derek Turnbull
25   Posted 22/01/2008 at 15:47:48

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Tom, I’m going to back up your last post by disagreeing with you! Everton have loads of songs, hardly anyone knows them though due to the designs problems ...all mentioned above!

Yet again our singers will be fighting against the tide.
Tom Hughes
26   Posted 22/01/2008 at 16:56:01

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Derek,
You may be right, but as you know you are more likely to hear most of them in the pubs around the ground than in GP.
Dave Lawley
27   Posted 22/01/2008 at 16:43:55

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the single most important thing in the design of a stadium has to be atmosphere, fuck what it looks like, did you see what that monstrosity looked like that our delightful neighbours were thinking of building? it looked daft, but the yanks (who I am loving just now) put alot of research into the acoustics and what would create the best atmos, hence they came up with that, my mate he’s a red, was gutted how it looked but when your inside and the noise rips the hairs off the back of your neck, who cares what it looks like.
Stu Jonno
28   Posted 22/01/2008 at 17:56:52

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I use my mouth to sing, why do I need to stand up?
Phil Martin
29   Posted 22/01/2008 at 18:46:06

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Re Karl
I agree with Karl Masters. The stadium designs could be anyone?s. The designs have no originality, personality or character. Just 4 out of the box stands stuck together with blue seats. Maybe the colour of the seat was what Bill was referring too when he pushed the designers to the limit. They were probably originally designed to be green!

No seriously. Why cant we have one 2 tier end (like the glawdys st) and one three main stand incorporated. They can be the same capacity as the original Kirkby plans - but just giving the plans a bit of character.

A few of my mates from uni (A City fan, Southampton fan, and Chelsea fan) all love Goodison. Yes thay agreeits a bit of a shit hole but they ALL say its true football stadium. With an imposing 3 tier main stand and instantly recognisable Home end. They all love going to Goodison for the football experience.

The Kirkby plans are just sterile. I?m not nit picking its just boring and so dull. Just a small change could make all the difference. But i suppose that might cost an extra £5milllion pounds which BK and KW just cant accept.
Paul Power
30   Posted 22/01/2008 at 18:50:37

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Forget that shithole in the clouds for now - everything about it is shite so why not have crap acoustics too?
Tomorrow we have got the biggest game in 13 years! COYFBB!
Pavil Benson
31   Posted 22/01/2008 at 21:02:41

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Re Stu Jonno

It?s about inhibitions though when surrounded by 40,000 other people. Many fans feel more inhibited when sitting down in a stadium and so are less likely to start off songs and join in with them before they get loud. Surely you must have noticed the difference in atmosphere when the fans are stood.
Pavil Benson
32   Posted 22/01/2008 at 21:11:46

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Re Phil Martin and your post about character to the stadium.

Imagine we built the stadium in the first instance to have a large single tier behind both goals and two tier tiered side stands. Now in addition if each stand was built to allow for an extra tier to be added at any time in the future, then if we ever needed to expand then we could have the option of adding a third tier to a side stand, or both. We may decide to add a 2nd tier to the End Stand. We could fill in the corners for example.

We would basicly have a continual number of option on how to expand, so over time we would have that character you said. As long as we don?t put character in front of quality then it?s fine.

It would also be nice to restore the old Main Stand gable, and add the Leitch criss crosses to the side stands too.
Tom Davies
33   Posted 22/01/2008 at 23:46:42

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I always sing sitting down, it never affects my voice, infact amazingly me and every other person I know can sing sitting or standing, god knows why?

I think the atmosphere at Goodison is electric, week in, week out. But as I was onkly born in 1988 I will never know the atmospheres of the 70’s and 80’s so maybe it is rubbish compared to back then.

I also think that in Kirkby we would lose alot of atmosphere in my opinion.
Jamie Ferguson
34   Posted 23/01/2008 at 01:45:02

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I live in Sydney, Australia and got to Sydney FC the local A-league teams games all the time and both ends are organised standing areas to sing and it really is essential to the athmosphere and enjoyment of the match to even the non-singing executives!

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