I’ve been a big fan of Safe Standing for a long while but talking about it recently made me think – Will Safe Standing work at Arsenal?
If you don’t know already safe standing is not a return to terracing. Let’s forget about that thought instantly.
Safe standing is a handrail barrier that travels an entire length of a block. Remember the crash barriers on terraces? They were steel barriers that were placed on terraces which were designed to stop sways of people rushing forward. Problem was they were sporadically only placed.
Back to safe standing – lets now imagine as you walk down the aisle at the Emirates to your row. For starters aisles didn’t exist on terraces! You walk along your row to your, lets for argument sake here say, ‘your seat’. Now at your seat, you are protected either side by handrails both infront of you and behind. The one in front stops you from falling into the row in front and the one behind preventing anyone behind you falling onto you.
Safe standing automatically stops any crowd rushing forward or ‘surging’, as it used to be known, as they are physically prevented from doing so.
Safe Standing works around Europe and more recently Celtic installed safe standing at Celtic Park.
Teams in the top two divisions in England are, by law, required to have all seater stadiums. This as most of us will know was a direct result of the inquest and report following the Hillsborough Disaster known as the Taylor report.
Without going into the finer details and recommendations of the Taylor report, nor the politics of the time, the report blamed football fans. Citing alcohol and terraces as contributing factors.
This report, which became both Acts & Regulations applied to spectators watching football only. Therefore you can stand at a Rugby match, The Cricket, Boxing and darts etc.. Any sport!
It’s not just the stadia it’s the sport. If you’re watching football at Wembley you have to sit; it’s law! If it’s NFL or Rugby Union final at Wembley you the law doesn’t apply here.
The government simply brandished all football fans with the same brush.
Just to further the point. I saw Green Day, the Rock/Punk band play at our very own Emirates stadium. Not only was I allowed to drink alcohol at my seat we were all actively encouraged to stand…..and I was in the Upper tier. STANDING!
As you may know the new Hillsborough inquest in April earlier this year ruled that the victims of that tragic day in 1989 were unlawfully killed. Caused by catalogue of failings by police and the ambulance services contributed to their deaths.
Whilst many of us knew this to be the case and part of a huge cover up the ruling of the new inquest now proves that the current law regarding being seated at football matches is outdated.
As I’ve already pointed out teams around Europe already have safe standing areas installed. It works! It’s only in England that the current law prevents it.
What are the Advantages?
Standing creates noise. Obviously it helps if you sing because standing itself will not create any noise.
Have you ever tried to sing whilst sitting? It’s hard. Vocal coaches will tell you that in order to project your voice you need to be upright. Even boybands that sit will only sing using upright bar stalls to maximise their diaphragm. That’s before standing up on the key change of course!
Players themselves admit that the fans help them. If us fans can create more noise and a better atmosphere than that in turn will help, not guarantee, the team to win. The more we win the more likely we will win silverware.
So there you go safe standing wins you trophies!
If the law was changed would Arsenal create a safe standing section?
I have my doubts on this.
It’s often cited that safe standing could bring cheaper tickets.
Personally I don’t think that will happen, not like a club with Arsenal board. I can’t them lowering their match revenue. They could do it, but would likely raise the cost of seated fans to cover the loss. That’s simply unfair.
Many say that with safe standing this will bring in more fans than those seated.
If we have lets say 2,000 fans in a corner at the Emirates currently in seats that are converted to safe standing. We still need 2,000 seats for Champion’s League games as the UEFA rules means that all games need to be all seater.
At the Emirates the block which covers 5 & 6 is the ‘unofficial’ standing area. Standing as it is there is shoulder to shoulder.
I don’t see safe standing as way of increasing attendance. That’s not even considering the hurdles of challenging our health and safety certificate that grants us the current capacity. Even this would require guarantees of changes to the current transport infostructure. This could cost millions.
Maybe let’s just keep the current capacity.
If safe standing were to happen where could the club create a section?
Site lines are very important factor here.
With a block that is standing you need to be mindful of those in the blocks either side of it as to whether they can see as they are sitting.
Automatically this rules out using blocks on the East and West sides of the Emirates. As most of us know as soon as one person stands during a great looking attack this creates a ripple effect as no one else can see.
Likewise, this is the same for blocks* at either end which I know this will upset some.
Now you may note the asterisks I placed above. The exception here is if an entire end or both were standing sections.
However the design of the Emirates, which is a bowl shape, doesn’t help us in this respects. If we compare our against the stadium of Celtic which is rectangular in shape the corners are tighter.
At Celtic the last seated block the aisle is parallel to the goal line. Therefore if you’re seated you can sit and see across the pitch without being obstructed by those in the block behind the goal line standing.
If we look at the Emirates, the Northbank aisles curve with the stadium. This creates viewing restrictions again.
So in order the make safe standing work the club need to redesign some blocks so that the aisles are parallel to the pitch. That won’t be easy either given that the block entrances are at the back of the stands.
Personally I think if the club were to bring in safe standing they’ll will to do it with the less hassle and that includes financial impact.
Another aspect to look at is restricting those bunking in with the mates.
The allocation numbers in a safe standing area will remain the same per game and will end up likely being season ticket holders. There’s two ways of ticketing this section.
An unrestricted position standing section will work as ‘first come, first served’. The earlier you get to the ground the better the ‘pitch’ you’ll position yourself at.
The other method, fixed position, will no different to that of current where you have a ticketed position. It’s important to remember that the seat is still there ready for Champions League use but is not protruding in your way of standing.
The issue with unrestricted standing is if you’re late how do you know where the space(s) are? That works the same if it’s a Champions League game and you have to find an odd empty unrestricted seat.
Another issue in that as the Emirates is fully opened once you’re in the stadium how do you restrict the limited entry in to the safe standing section? With fixed position this is easier to self-manage as you’d be standing by someone’s seat. Okay, it won’t stop the odd mate bunking in but it wouldn’t be a free-for-all. Unrestricted seating could result in sectioning off the internal areas so that the gates outside only allow those with safe standing tickets. Once inside, like the away fans, they’re gated off from the rest of the ground. This presents further issues ensuring the right amount of amenities, food & drink outlets and toilets for both sexes.
The club will look using the corners of the Emirates and likely just the one at least to start with.
Moving and relocating fans will be a massive ball ache for the club and one which they’ll want to avoid.
So we can rule out the Clockend straight away as the club won’t move or more likely won’t want to move the away fans which are in one corner. Likewise the Junior Gunners present the same problem who are in the opposite Clockend corner. So we’re left with the Northbank corners.
What the club will likely do is contact current season ticket holders in one particular corner. They will inform them of a change to a safe standing and ask whether they wish to remain. Those that don’t will need to be relocated with those wanting to move in.
I think personally the club should create the new safe standing section in the north east corner, block 12, including parts of 11 & 13.
The club has an opportunity to create something special at the Emirates. Many may move from blocks 5/6 across creating an amazing section. Blocks 5 & 6 may continue to stand (albeit unsafely) so that what you have is two fantastic corners. This will have a knock on impact with the Northbank as whole and who knows what happens in the future…
However given that the blocks 5 & 6 already stand, there’s little grumbles about standing which has continued for several years the movement will be low.
I think, if the law is changed, and if the club want to follow suite with other clubs I think they’ll take the easy option and just make 5 & 6 an official standing area. Not much change then.
To answer the topic question, will safe standing work at Arsenal?
Yes, if the club choose block 11 &; 12.
If the club opts for block 5 & 6 then safe standing work at Arsenal won’t make a difference.