For a number of years now the issue of reintroducing safe standing back into top tier Scottish Football has been an ever present. Rules have been relaxed and pilot schemes have been introduced, but little is yet to come to fruition. With the topic appearing to be one of the few mass agreements amongst fans today, isn’t it about time the governing bodies give the fans and clubs what they desire by reintroducing safe standing across the whole of Scottish Football?
The Hillsborough Disaster of 1989, the main catalyst in the introduction of all seated stadia regulations, represented a knee jerk reaction to a tragic incident in which football fans were wrongly held accountable for the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans. In recent years enquiries have revealed on whose doorstep the blame truly lies, negligent policing, poor stewarding, yet the reputation of fans has remained tarnished, no longer trusted to responsibly stand and support their team. If the evidence proves that football fans were not responsible then the reaction and punishing removal of standing facilities cannot be deemed a just one. Hence, shouldn’t the decision to remove such facilities be overturned?
It is fast becoming a cliché to quote German football as the model that every other country throughout world football should adhere to but on the topic of ‘safe standing’ it is difficult to ignore. The Bundesliga has proved that safely including standing sections in modern football, amongst some of the liveliest and most passionate fans in the world is not only a possibility but a source of many benefits for the league as a whole. The governing bodies of Scottish Football should gain reassurances from the safety aspect and be encouraged by the potential benefits to be had. Scottish Football is in a slump, going through a period of transition where changes are necessary to rejuvenate the game. Risks must be taken and experiments must be conducted if attendances and atmospheres are to improve. In a time where money is tight and Scottish Football is struggling, the differing pricing structures facilitated by standing areas could be a refreshing and welcomed solution. Allowing the fans to watch football the way they want to, standing up, whilst still giving others the option to sit can only help to raise attendances and generate a much needed greater atmosphere throughout the whole of Scottish football.
Scottish Football would be ill advised to stand still. The rate of progression in football across Europe means that today standing still can be deemed to be moving backwards. Such progression requires a need to be constantly coming up with new ideas and experimenting with ways in which to maintain the prosperity of the nation’s most loved sport. To some the reintroduction of safe standing may be a step back to the old days of Scottish Football. To others, they were the glory days, not only be remembered fondly but equally to be learnt from. To me, there is no shame in admitting that eradicating standing areas was a mistake. Any steps taken to bring life back into Scottish Football, responding to fan demands, raising attendances and generating a greater atmosphere can only be looked upon favourably. Of course maintaining the safety of the fans is of the upmost importance but this should be addressed rather than used as an excuse to sweep the notion of safe standing under the carpet and bind the hands of those in charge. Putting the ban in place was done under false pretences. Supporters were wrongfully held accountable, punished and ever since restricted in the manner in which they are allowed to view the game. It’s time that the slate was wiped clean, fans were listened to and Scottish football began taking the much needed steps to move forward and prosper. It’s time to take a stand.
Words: Graeme Donnelly
You can follow Graeme on Twitter at @graemed86