Six of One… Would you welcome safe standing at your club?
Six of One is our regular look at a burning issue from the world of sport.
With huge news this week that the FA has backed safe standing proposals, we’re asking… would you like to see it phased in at your club?
The case for…
Football is ultimately a business, and good businesses listen to their customers. If a genuine demand amongst a fanbase is there for the introduction of safe standing, isn’t it time that clubs listened?
Whilst clubs in the Premier League generally have few issues with selling out their grounds, it’s a different story lower down the ladder, where the quality of the product served up on matchday can – if we’re honest – vary.
Safe standing could help reinvigorate interest amongst the casual fan living within touching distance of a Football League club – but it will all be dependent on the design and marketing of the standing section. A look to German football offers encouragement that, if integrated smartly, it can be incredibly popular in attracting new fans and lifting an atmosphere on matchday.
With the cost of even an ‘average’ Championship game setting football fans back around £30, safe standing could be a way of tapping into a whole new revenue stream for clubs who often struggle to fill their stadiums – if priced correctly.
Set the cost at around £10-£15, and safe standing could be the difference in adding an extra few hundred on the gate and bringing back a feelgood factor to clubs struggling to make ends meet. It would also potentially draw in a younger generation of fans who may have been priced out, which, over a generation, can help build a captive audience. Affordable safe standing could help the casual fan get the bug and, in time, migrate to become a fully-fledged season ticket holder.
Safe standing doesn’t hold all the answers – but being bold and taking the step to at least trial it could help some clubs inject new energy and enthusiasm into the local fanbase.
The case against….
Like it or not, football has changed beyond all recognition since all-seater stadiums became the norm, and the nature of crowds has evolved with it. The modern football stadium is unrecognisable from even 20 years ago in terms of the atmosphere both inside and outside of grounds.
Football in 2018 is a far more family-friendly product and safe standing could risk bringing back an intimidating edge to games – particularly high-profile ones where the outcome is on a knife-edge – that marred football in the 1970s and 1980s. Clubs need to be careful before pushing ahead with safe standing to make sure it works to the benefits of all fans – satisfying both those inside and outside the section.
The cost of investing in safe standing is also a stumbling block – particularly in the lower leagues where the demand for its return tends to be higher. For understandable reasons of nostalgia, many fans like the notion of safe standing, but if the upgrades needed to revamp a stand to accommodate that section come at the expense of a few new summer signings, would that change the equation?
Put those two options to a vote pre-season, and the real enthusiasm for safe standing might well be tested. Shrewsbury Town – the first club to adopt safe standing – had to crowdfund £65,000 to add a small section at the New Meadow. Without that outside funding support, is it too much of a luxury for clubs at that level to introduce?
Finally, the jury is still out on whether safe standing really is the ‘one size fits all’ solution to generating an improved atmosphere on matchday.
Yes, head to any all-seater ground in 2018 and on any given matchday it can replicate a library, but is there really a correlation between atmosphere and the seating arrangements in the ground? A bigger gate doesn’t necessarily lead to a better atmosphere.
Most fans would agree that the quality of the action being served on the pitch is usually the biggest factor in driving the matchday atmosphere, and if your team is peppering the opposition, the noise levels will be up whether fans are sitting or standing.
Sometimes a flat game is simply a flat game, and the atmosphere usually backs that up – safe standing area or not.
All image sources from PA Images
Would you like your club to introduce safe standing?
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