Stand, sit or lie down?

tank-man-china-webI’m an activist by nature and upbringing but there are times when I don’t feel like doing anything.  My enthusiasm wanes and all actions seem useless.  I feel like the man standing in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square, 25 years ago.  “What’s the point?” I think, “Whatever posture I adopt, life is going to flatten me.”

I’m feeling a bit like that about Birmingham City at present. It has been three years since we were relegated and everything fell apart.  The money laundering trial went on for ages, efforts to sell the club are still dragging on and it feels like they could go on forever.

Next week I’ll probably feel totally different. I’m going to the Supporters Summit at Wembley on Saturday, which should boost the activist in me. When I hear fans from other clubs talking about the various campaigns they’re involved in, I expect I’ll want to join in again.

One of the current football campaigns is about standing up. The Safe Standing Campaign aims to persuade the Government, football authorities and football clubs to accept the case for introducing, on a trial basis, limited sections of standing areas in selected stadiums of Premier League and Championship football clubs. I prefer to sit down to watch games but am in favour of this campaign.  I think that fans who want to stand should be allowed to do so and would much prefer them to stand in a designated standing area rather than in front of my seat.

Campaigns require a critical mass of supporters to have any hope of achieving anything.  I’m pretty sure that some of the things I care about in football could never be developed into campaigns because most other fans would disagree with me.  For example, I think TV money and the way it is distributed has caused a lot of problems in this country. I won’t subscribe to Sky Sports or BT Sport (though I admit to watching games on friends’ TVs and in pubs) but think that it would be useless to try to organise a campaign to boycott their subscription services.

Most football fans would agree that there’s something wrong with football in this country but most of us are not sure if we can change that.  My hope for the Supporters Summit is that we can reach an agreement on what the most important issues are and what we can do about them. One reason for choosing to stand up to football’s vested interests is that it feels better than just lying down and giving up. If enough people choose to stand up and support a campaign, we might just manage to stop the tanks.

8 thoughts on “Stand, sit or lie down?

  1. Kaje

    The call for safe standing areas in stadiums is probably the most insignificant issue in football today. What is ruining the game is the over-reliance on mega bucks and foreign players – I could state, with some certainty, that no club other than the current top 5 will win the Premiership in my lifetime (and I’m only 29!) unless there is a dramatic change.

    That statement would likely be echoed by many football fans up and down the country, and it’s sad. It’s sad to think that no club can hope to compete with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal without being taken over by a billionaire. It’s depressing.

    The absurd amount of money is also stifling the development of young, English, talent – thus preventing the England national team from being competitive. The same old names are picked from the same old clubs, regardless of international form. We’ve seen that the best club players don’t necessarily make the best international players – take Wayne Rooney for instance, awful internationally – yet they are continually picked because we don’t have a deep pool to draw from. Clubs would rather spend £20m on the next continental wonderkid than give first-team time to one of their Academy prospects. They end up on loan in the lower leagues, playing with players of a lower standard than they need to in order to improve. Let’s not even go into player wages – but if Wayne Rooney is worth £300,000 per week, then the average teacher, nurse or police officer is worth at least £8,000,000 a second.

    So, yeah. Safe standing can kiss my arse. I’d rather see fans vocally challenge the destruction of the game by money, absurd wages and an abundance of foreign talent.

  2. Chris

    The problem with anything involving government is, the more you fight against them the more they dig their heels in. Someone somewhere needs to come up with a plan to make the government think that it’s the governments idea that they bring back standing. Good luck with that one!!!!!!

  3. richard

    whilst I agree whole heartedly with Kaje on the financial aspect of his post, i.e money destroying the game we all love, FIFA have to take some responsibility for the games current shortcomings and the level of greed involved at the very top,but I don’t think standing at football stadiums should be dismissed out of hand.
    for me, its all about the match day experience and I do think standing creates a “buzz” amongst supporters that you don’t tend to get whilst sitting down.
    I would be in favour of bringing it back on a trial basis to begin with and see how it develops. but until football in the UK comes back to the “people”, giving us, the supporters, a bigger say in how the game is run, sadly,nothing will change

  4. Alan Watton

    The problem with standing was the hooligans could move around to cause their mayhem. All seating was about this not safety. The German tip up seats behind the goals allow fans to stand and jump about but not forward or back. They convert to seating areas for Uefa games. Also the seating areas are steeper and the front row is 6 feet above the pitch level. There is therefore no reason for those in the seating to stand up.
    The current government is the spawn of Thatcher whose attitude to football caused the various disasters of the 80’s. Like all Tory governments they spout on about choice but only offer the choice they would want.
    If people want to stand up, dance, sing, wave banners or bawl obscenities at the opposition then as long as they don’t do it near me and spoil my view I support their choice. Its not my choice but neither is smoking and people are allowed to harm themselves and others by doing that.
    “Logic , Spoc?” “Yes but not as we know it”

  5. Rob

    Hi Margaret. I enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for spending the time to share your thoughts.

    When I went to the Allianz Arena, I have to say I found the 10 feet high fence surrounding the ‘safe’ standing area to be repugnant. It is a lot worse than what we ever had, and the Hillsborough disaster is much too fresh. Second, a 30 foot high nylon mesh is then necessary to protect the players on the pitch from the ‘animals’ in the pen. There must be some reason why these two fences are there, and this reason alone is why ‘safe’ standing is far, far from safe. In my humble opinion, ‘safe’ standing in Germany is horrible, to be avoided and is really a relic of the past, not for modern stadiums.

    1. Alan Watton

      Interesting comment. The Allianz is supposed to be one of the major arenas in Europe. I have not been there but did go to the old Olympic Stadium which with its setting in the Park and the running track had an atmosphere akin to a cricket ground. Frankfurt, Cottbus and Karlesruhe all had safe standing and were excellent places to watch top class football. I did say that the standing areas were not for me. Wild horses wouldn’t have got me amongst the Frankfurt fans. Equally standing amongst the Blues fans at Yeovil was disturbing. The advantage however was that when one is surrounded by foul mouthed drunken yobs one can move away.

  6. Rob

    Alan, you have got me reading some web-sites, and I think I am correct to say The Allianz only gets the 5 star UEFA rating when the fences are removed as well as seating installed. I haven’t been to any of the grounds you mention. Do they have these repulsive fences?
    It is the height of the fences in the Allianz Arena that appalled me, plus they are a lot sturdier and menacing than those in the English grounds in the 1980s. Also there is this huge nylon net in front of the steel fence.
    Stans is so empty these days, we can always move from the very tiny number of ‘foul mouthed drunken yobs’ that may be around you. It is a lot more difficult to change positions when the ground is sold out, and you are assigned a standing position on your ticket.
    When I went to The Allianz, it was great to see the standing fans enjoy themselves: jumping and skipping throughout the match to the drums, chanting away, letting off flares, etc. However the fact there has to be these fences is a major concern, and one I would prefer not have to worry about. But, worse, I do reckon the authorities have imposed a dangerous solution. Following Hillsborough, I fear a repeat is waiting to happen and I don’t believe ‘safe’ standing in The Allianz is safe. I think this is probably true of the other German stadiums too.

    1. Alan Watton

      I have no problems at St Andrews as I have 2 seats which I was assigned when they were built. The area is always pretty well full and the people around me have been there almost as long. I buy my away tickets as early as possible because when I buy during ‘general sale’ its a bit of a lottery who you get plonked next to.
      As for my German grounds Frankfurt had he convertible seating but no fences and it was about a year before the World Cup. The fans in there were loud and aggressive as were the banners. As I said I was in a seat which had arms and a place for my drink. A Hot Wine is a must. All fans are likely to stand up during moments of excitement. Those moments are getting fewer at St Andrews. The slope at Frankfurt meant when the fans stood up I could still see.
      There was a huge 4 sided screen in the centre of the stadium which reported every goal scored in the Bundesliga that day. There is a jingle followed by a cartoon goal scorer which became really annoying as Bayern were winning 7-4 that day. There were 30+ goals scored that day and I saw 1!
      Cottbus was a former non-league ground with fenced pens at either end. Not enough fans in either to cause a problem.
      At Karlesruhe I saw Stuttgart v Lens in the Inter Toto Cup. Stuttgart’s ground was being redeveloped. At either end of the ground outside a running track were about 2000 Germans packed in a pen and about 500 French the other end. The rest of the stadium was 1/4 full. Very strange.
      The Frankfurt stadium would I believe be a model for safe seating while the others were as you described pretty awful.
      To create an area at St Andrews would require massive amounts of redevelopments as the seating near the standing areas would need raising or the people in there could not see.
      The best Stadiums I have ever been to are all in the US and the idea of not having seats is unimaginable.
      I have been watching sport for over 50 years and spectator behaviour has changed little in that time so I am not expecting that to change any time soon

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