The tragedy of the football match in 1989 where 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death can never be understated. It was a massive tragedy that left English Football’s image in shards. Even casual fans, and many non-fans who had access to a radio or newspaper, knew about the incident. I am in no position to mount an argument that in any way takes away from the impact of the incident, or minimizes its affect on football as a whole. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I knew someone involved. That said, I have always felt that the response to ban “standing” at football matches was not a good one, and thus I have always had my cup 3/4 empty on the matter.
A campaign, the Safe Standing Campaign to be exact, which seeks to overturn the rule preventing fans from standing at matches after more than two decades has been in the works thanks to the Football Supporters Federation. Simply, the group’s aim is “To persuade the Government, football authorities and football clubs to accept the case for introducing, on a trial basis, limited sections of standing areas at selected grounds in the stadiums of Premier League and Championship football clubs.” The campaign has already gained support from a couple dozen teams representing several divisions of club football in Great Britain.
The group is proposing several measures to make standing safer – yes, standing shouldn’t be dangerous in and of itself. Most notably they are recommending higher-backed chairs along with a railing that on-lookers can hold on to while watching. Seems like a good idea, and if implemented I can’t see how they wouldn’t solve many issues that opponent’s to the motion claim. In fact, this is already used successfully in Germany.
The most outspoken group, for obvious reasons, is the Hillsborough Family Support Group, whose chairperson believes, “Standing should never, ever come back. I do not think there is anything safe about standing. I feel insulted that while people are trying to fight for justice for Hillsborough, that this campaign is growing now.” There is nothing safe about standing? Okay, I’ll bite – it’s actually very good for the circulatory system. Sorry, I know that’s not what she meant, but I think it’s a little much to think “standing” is why the tragedy occurred. Poor safety protocol, security practices, and underrepresented officials to assure a safe environment are much more exact.
Look, I’m all for providing a safe environment in which to watch sports – I have two young kids who I hope will join me at the pitch some day. But, I think it’s time for a reverse to the current ban to allow passionate fans the right to stand up, and proudly cheer on their team. If it means increased security and preventable measures, such as those suggested by Football Supporters’ Federation in their “Safe Standing Campaign”, then I think that would be a great measuring stick.
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