Hillsborough Disaster is one of the darkest days in football history. 96 people lost their lives and 766 injured themselves that day as the Leppings Lane Tribune collapsed due to either drunken hooligans or bad management by the stewards.
Later, the English Parliament forced all top two divisions club to remove all standing tribunes and replace it with all-seater tribune. Twenty years later, fans and clubs are demanding a review on the law as managers and players started to speak up about the lack of passion from the supporters.
David Conn implied on his article that he was not so encouraged that clubs are using standing tribunes again. As he concerned about the safety problems, he also stated that the Hillsborough Family Support Group also voted for the ban to stay. Though the ban is still applied, Shrewsbury Town F.C. has already done a trial and installed a standing tribune. Is this the right thing to do?
Actually, standing tribune is not a bad idea at all since it really brought up the atmosphere in the stadium. Fans are more likely to sing and chant together if they are standing which are proven important for the players. Tom Bates, a psychologist told FourFourTwo.com that the more players are aware that they are supported by lots of people, the more they’re likely to play their best as they want to live up the expectations. (“How important really is the 12th man? Players and experts reveal all”, Murray, 2017). Another study confirms the effect of supporters on players. Teams are winning games and showing better performance when they receive more enthusiastic crowd support. (Zeller & Jurkovac, 1988, p.20).
The effects of singing and chants are also affecting the opposing team. This has been confirmed by players when Joe Cole, a former Chelsea player, could not concentrate on the match that day because of the noise created by the Liverpool Supporter in Anfield. The match was held in 2005 and the all-seater regulation has already applied. Imagine the effect if the fans were standing instead of sitting on the bench. The atmosphere will surely be more heated and the players will be more affected.
A new breakthrough called Safe Standing are being introduced by some English clubs, but they were already used by some clubs across Europe. Bundesliga clubs in Germany have applied railing on stands that allow fans to stand throughout the match but also providing security. This has become part of Bundesliga success story as clubs, players and fans are building synergy and supporting each other. No seats installed means more fans that can enter the tribune therefore clubs can increase their income by selling tickets. (dailymail.co.uk, Harris, 2013).
Managers and club boards have stated their support on this new system. High-profile figures such as Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Tottenham’s Andre Villas-Boas have spoken out over what they claim is a lack of atmosphere at grounds, while Arsenal’s manager, Arsene Wenger, says he is ‘100 percent’ in favor of safe standing. And the club’s chief executive, Ivan Gazidis, asks: ‘Why would you be against it, if you can do it safely?’ (dailymail.co.uk, Harris, 2013).
The all-seater law itself was based on the report conducted by Lord Justice Taylor after the Hillsborough Incident. Surprisingly, Taylor didn’t say that the hooliganism of the drunken supporters was the main cause of the accident. Taylor found that the lack of provision and action from the police officers that day allowed the unregistered spectators broke into the stadium causing overcrowd in the Leppings Lane Tribune. (Taylor, 1990). This proves that instead of banning standing tribunes, the Football Association (FA) and the English Government should be more focused on evaluating the stewards and polices to prevent another disaster.
The combination of good provision and safe standing tribune can be seen in Bundesliga. Borussia Dortmund has no seats in the Südtribüne of the Signal Iduna Park but until now, Die Gelbe Wand (The Yellow Wall, name of the southern tribune of the stadium) still stands and intimidating its opponents. Although it was reduced by size and converted to all-seater due to UEFA Regulations to accommodate Champions League Match, the fans are still standing throughout the match. (“Borussia Dortmund's "Yellow Wall": a crown jewel of German football”, Bundesliga.com, 2018).
The all-seater regulations should have been reviewed a long time ago since technology and people are changing. The tribunes are no longer built from woods and planks. A digitalized ticketing system and surveillance camera will surely improve the work of the polices and stewards. We can enjoy things more if we accept changes, and that’s the way we can enjoy football more.