It's time to take a stand – for sitting down at football matches | Michael Hann

Many fans don't want to, or can't, stand, but have to because others stand up in front of them. We need safe standing areas

I won't stand for it any more. Football, that is. I pay several hundred pounds a year for my seated season ticket, and around £40 for every away game. I've paid for a seat therefore I want to sit. But the problem for many football fans is that they don't get a choice because supporters in front of them have chosen to stand.

That's the experience of thousands of football fans every week, and if you don't believe me, just watch Match of the Day, and you'll see significant chunks of most major grounds occupied by standing fans. Not that the football authorities seem to have noticed.

"Our view is that the benefits of all-seater stadia far outweigh the return of standing areas," a Premier League spokesman said last year, dismissing the request for safe standing, as used in German football, at top-flight football grounds.

In April last year, sports minister Hugh Robertson waded in: "There is a small group of football fans who want safe standing, good luck to them. But the safety of fans in grounds, for me as a minister, has to be paramount and when all the advice from the relevant authorities is that we should not go back to safe standing, that is the advice I'll be following." .

All well and good, but all-seater stadiums are all-seater in name only, even if the government and the football authorities are choosing to ignore this fact (but then, no one stands in the directors' box, where they sit when they go to games, so maybe they just haven't noticed).

And standing up in seated areas is causing increasing fractiousness between those who want to take advantage of their seat and those who want to stay on their feet. The messageboards of my own club, QPR, were filled with complaints after last year's away game at Liverpool. The back part of Anfield's away end is overshadowed by the upper tier of the stand. Once fans at the front stood, those in the rear half of the stand could see only the nearest third of the pitch, because the overhanging tier blocked out the rest.

Then there are the fans who, for whatever reason, might be unable to stand for 90 minutes – the very old, the infirm, the very young (my son has to stand on a tip-up bucket seat if the people in front of him stand; if you've ever tried standing on one you will know it is not a terribly secure perch). At the moment, the football authorities, in their blindness to the fact that people are already standing, are making life impossible for them (and it's no good saying they should just buy tickets for the parts of grounds in which no one will stand; unless you're a regular attender, you just won't know where to avoid, and on away trips you have to assume you'll be standing).

I don't begrudge people who want to stand. I used to stand on the old terraces, and I loved it. It's a uniquely atmospheric way to watch football, among a choir of the like-minded. But these days I want to sit, and the best way to ensure I and those like me – the majority of fans, the government and the Premier League assure us in their defence of all-seater grounds – can do that is to introduce safe standing.

It's counter-intuitive, but it's right.


Michael Hann

The GuardianTramp

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