Standing up for change at Old Trafford
These things are brought on by fans at Old Trafford themselves, therefore it can be improved drastically by the fans. The major factor behind the lack atmosphere though is in the hands of the government. The introduction of all-seater stadiums was a result of The Taylor Report after the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. It was recommended in the report and passed into legislation through the Football Spectators Act. It should be noted though that it was only ‘recommended’ by the report. The disaster itself was down to poorly designed grounds and match day management, not standing. I can completely understand why people still have reservations about the re-introduction of standing, especially those who are family and friends of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, but it is clear that standing was not the reason behind the terrible tragedy. Also, if it is so unsafe then why is it completely acceptable for grounds outside of the top two divisions to still have standing terraces? It is a complete contradiction. Safe or unsafe? There is no middle ground between the two.
Those who are in favour of standing often point towards the way it is so successful in Germany. Knowing that it was an integral part of the match day experience, they realised that they needed to modernise and develop the system rather than completely remove it from football altogether. The introduction of surveillance, new escape routes, making existing escape routes larger; it all seems very simple. Schalke’s Veltins Arena has barriers that can be easily removed and replaced with seating for competitions that require stadiums to be all seated. This, again, shows development and ability to adapt. Veltins Arena has 16,000 spaces for standing fans and in the 8 years it has been open there have been no cases of injury. So, why exactly can’t standing be re-introduced in England? It cannot be down to the usual excuse of safety. The German model is exemplary and could easily be implemented here.
There is a glimmer of hope that standing may be seen in England’s top divisions once more. The Liberal Democrats included safe standing as an official policy and MP Don Foster has introduced a new safe standing bill into parliament which argues the case for clubs to be able to utilise safe standing should they wish to. The Football Spectators Act is a complete contradiction that needs to reviewed anyway, regardless of the outcome. The bill, though, will not get anywhere without government backing but with the Liberal Democrats now part of the coalition government, you have to hope that it is more than just a distinct possibility.
I have my fingers crossed that something will come of the latest attempts for the sake of Old Trafford. Change cannot come quick enough as almost everyone will agree that the atmosphere has suffered since standing was removed. Over the past few years fans have become disillusioned with the way the club is being run and also with football overall. The fans voices should always be the main reason behind any decisions made in football. The fans, quite clearly, want standing back at the ground. Old Trafford could become a cauldron and passion and excitement, something inspiring and accessible. Younger fans should gaze in sheer amazement when they first walk up the steps. We need to reconnect and fall in love with football again. Standing is needed. We need it now.