80 Minuters – The Modern Football Atmosphere and Safe Standing

Banks of blue seating at Reading's Madejski Stadium

Those near me at any football game (or indeed who follow me on Twitter) will know my incredulity towards the football fan who either a) has to go for a burger or beer sometimes up to 10 mins before half-time and b) has to leave before the game has ended.

The latter has always been a bugbear for many and of course there are times when someone needs to beat the rush for whatever reason. But it’s the serial early leaver that grates. Now I am not against free will and if you do wish to pay £50 to watch say 80 minutes of a game and miss that last minute scene of sheer joy when we get an equaliser or indeed winner, then so be it. But once you get up to go, then go. Don’t stand (with others) at the top of the stairwell and block the view of those who actually prefer to support their team to the end. The stewards compound the problem by looking confused as to why some people get more and more agitated when their £50 seat is being blocked by someone who seemingly turns into a pumpkin if they have to wait beyond the final whistle. Funny how you can’t stand during a game but are totally allowed to block a stairwell and people’s view as the game ticks towards the end. Stewards should be empowered to order people out if they can’t be bothered to stay until the end in their allocated seats. Then we might see some people actually supporting their side until the bitter end.

As for the half-timers. Well, that’s even more ridiculous in my view. At Fulham – and many other games – they don’t help by having screens of the game downstairs. So people who seemingly can’t wait until 3.45 to have a burger or a beer start streaming out at 3.35 onwards. What is it about these beers/burgers that entice people so? A £4 lukewarm bottle of Carlsberg is really that appealing? A grease ridden burger is really required?

Why don’t people eat or drink beforehand? Can people really not wait 90 minutes to re-stock?

I can’t imagine being in a meeting at 3.35 in the office and then walking out insisting that I had to have my fill of beer and burger. Do those half-timers really do that on a daily basis? I’m perplexed as to why you would pay £50 for a ticket in order to watch much of it on a screen downstairs. Now, people will argue that it’s their choice, but actually it’s a pain in the neck for those trying to watch a game continually having to get up for those who have worked out their tactics all game in when is the best time to have a burger.

Non-league football of course is much more convenient for these purposes as generally people can queue up whilst still watching the game live and not interfering with others who can actually handle 90 minutes without needing that life-saving re-fill. But of course the modern football fan (and I am deliberately generalising) believes that food is a major part of the football ‘experience’. All very Americanised. The traditional football fan thinks similar of the good old fashioned pub where you can have a pint in a glass beforehand and drown your sorrows in the same pub afterwards. Invariably the 90 minutes has ruined the afternoon. But at least a dodgy burger or rank beer hasn’t compounded our misery.

So has this missive swayed into that at times tedious argument over modern football v traditional old school football? Of course it has!

There are many of us who like to think or indeed are absolutely convinced that watching football games in the old days was a much better experience. Others will say it is much better, safer and cleaner nowadays. Is there no way we can have the best of both worlds?

Banks of blue seating at Reading's Madejski Stadium

© Copyright Richard Croft and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Safe terracing is a proven success in the likes of Germany. We hold back because of the appalling tragedy of Hillsborough. It is as if to say we got it wrong once, we will clearly get it wrong in the future. Poppycock.

Many elements contributed to Hillsborough but let’s accept it was the fencing that blocked any safe exit for those devastatingly killed or injured.

Lord Justice Taylor I believe had little choice but to insist football clubs look after their customers (even if we were all apparently – according to Thatcher – hooligans) so he had to insist on seats. But that was then.

Anyone having the misfortune to go to Loftus Road in the away end will know that if you sit you risk severe cramp. So we tend to stand which, with seats, can be more dangerous than sitting. I myself – and much to the amusement of my fellow travellers – went tumbling down seats causing a domino affect as a drunken Fulham fan virtually collapsed on me in Krakow. The seats were up to our shins so a tumble was a guarantee. Terracing would have equalled a few steps forward and no bruised ego!

But there are so many more advantages to standing. Those who want to stand, can. The bleating of those at away games when some want to stand and others want to stay seated has become tedious beyond words.

Standing can also mean cheaper tickets for those who want to go but simply can’t afford it. Since when did the ‘working class’ game get a licence to ignore those on low incomes and absolutely make it into a game for the privileged. Watching that middle tier at Arsenal suggests the ‘privileged’ are only really fussed about their half time meal (ah, back to food again!). Back to Germany and you can get a ticket for 12 euros. QPR charge 4 to 5 times that to have a restricted viewing seat! It’s enough to make you want to call Trading Standards…but clubs will argue that it’s all about supply and demand. Chelsea charged Fulham £55 this season and we sold out our allocation so they will argue they are justified. On the other hand, QPR are struggling to sell 15k home tickets on a regular basis. Perhaps a sensible pricing structure (plus a decent team I suppose) would mean increased attendances?

And are we at risk of alienating the future generation? If Dad can’t afford to take the two kids then no wonder they just support the team they watch the most on TV. This is where non-league teams need to get more cute and drag those who love their football but can’t afford to watch their professional team, down to their local ground. In my view there is still much that can be done there.

Furthermore, no-one would dispute that terracing creates a better atmosphere. Grounds are soulless places nowadays. Terracing would encourage those who like a sing song to get together and create the atmospheres of old.

Finally, terracing used to be great in that if you ended up next to a fool, you could move away in an instant. I’m sure everyone has had that dreaded moment when you realise your seat is next to or in front of the village idiot.

In conclusion, the debate for re-introducing terracing must be strongly campaigned for. There needs to be a shift away from the lazy assumption that terracing equals a return to hooliganism and death. Football has come a long way but has left some real football fans behind. Bring terracing back and we can bring back those lost to the modern game and those we need for the future of the nation’s sport.

About Gerry Pimm

Gerry Pimm is a lifelong Fulham fan season ticket holder who wastes his time watching them home and away. Also has an interest in the non-league game and has an urge for football to return to the good old days of terraces and value.

  • LG

    Brilliant read, spot on in my opinion!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1051720111 Richard Johnson

    I genuinely believe terracing is never coming back. I elaborated it on it here (http://thefootballattic.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/the-past-is-deadand-its-not-coming-back.html) and still stand by it. The political will to change is just not there and sadly, despite politicians using football to gain popularity since the 90s, fans are still seen as louts…or more to the point, those who want to see a return to standing are. Those who sit in their allocated space are fine as they fit into the shiny new image. An “atmospehere” isn’t really that desirable to those running the game, unless it’s created by the godawful post-goal celebration music. Anything created by noisy oiks just doesn’t go with the demographic they’re trying to bring in.

    Fans are not what they want through the door…cash cows are.

    I would also say that even if by some miracle terracing did come back, do you honestly think it would make it cheaper? I doubt it. All that would happen is seating would become even more expensive.

    I don’t mean to sound negative and would love to see standing back in the top flight…if it could work. I just can’t see anybody accept the responsibility for reintroducing it for fear of it going catastrophically wrong and for every reason there is in favour of it, someone will counter with a reason why not to, be them based on reality or simple fear.

    As for the 80 minuters, I’m totally with you. Just don’t get how anyone can walk away from the match while it’s still going on.