Time is right to stand up for safe standing

Pompey chief executive Mark Catlin has called on the Football Association to push forward the introduction of safe standing in football.

Monday, 5th December 2016, 10:56 am
Updated Tuesday, 6th December 2016, 12:40 pm
Pompey fans on their feet for the recent game against Doncaster Rovers Picture: Joe Pepler

Jordan Cross explores the debate with four figures surrounding the club and the issues arising from one of the most emotive subjects in football...

He starts with Ashley Brown, who is Supporters Direct chief executive and Pompey Supporters’ Trust chairman.

It’s time to allow standing again at grounds.

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Pompey Supporters' Trust chairman Ashley Brown

Safe standing would increase choice, the atmosphere in grounds and could even increase attendances.

It could attract back the younger elements missing at grounds because it makes for a younger person’s experience.

People of my age were brought up on the terraces. You would go and stand with your mates and make a lot of noise. That’s not possible today.

At Fratton Park it’s not necessarily possible to go in and group up with your mates with the club having such healthy season-ticket sales.

Pompey Supporters' Trust chairman Ashley Brown

It’s something football in general seems to feel is right to embrace now.

I don’t think you’ll find too many people campaigning to keep grounds all-seater.

Off the back of the Taylor Report, the tragedies of the 1980s and the problems football had, there was strong support to make stadiums all-seater and perhaps there were good reasons.

But actually it wasn’t terracing that was causing the problem. It was problems with ticketing, policing and stewarding.

All of these areas have improved tremendously. Football is a much better, much safer and much friendlier place than it was then.

The problems weren’t because people could stand up – it was because they let too many people into areas where you could stand up.

Or it was because they let the wrong people into those areas or the movement of people flowed in the wrong directions and weren’t controlled properly.

Now the grounds have electronic ticketing and turnstiles. There’s CCTV to help monitor crowd movement.

All of these things mean football is a much safer place now. It must be time to go back and allow standing at grounds.

People talk about three safe standing seats to every normal seat, so there is room to add to clubs’ attendances, too.

That has to be a good thing and hopefully would be reflected in ticket prices.

For clubs like us there is a big cost involved for safe standing. So, for us, it’d be something we’d consider as part of the ground redevelopment. That’s a decision for the board to take when it becomes valid. But people have to realise it’s an expensive move, so it would have to be part of a wider programme.

The north terrace would be an obvious place to do it but you couldn’t just do it on the existing concrete.

You couldn’t just plug the seats on because it wouldn’t be deemed safe for safe standing. You need to take all the seats out, re-profile all the concrete and then put safe standing rails in.

So it’s not a minor undertaking.

But if we, for example, were to knock down the Milton End and build another stand – the cost of putting in normal or safe standing seats is indifferent.

So I think it would end up being part of a wider development when we improved facilities.

I do think there is clear thirst for it now, though. It’s giving people that option and I feel that choice is important.