A two-way debate about re-introducing standing room at English football grounds has raged since ever since all seater stadiums were introduced, and both sides of have strong, well developed arguments to back them up. However, the unfortunate reality is that much of the debate is rendered invalid by the simple maxim: money talks. Until fans and fans’ groups realise that, no-one is going to listen to what they have to say.
Things don’t change in football without money as a motivation. The 1989 Taylor report is, rightly, associated with increased safety at football grounds in England. The reforms that it introduced – most crucially, all-seater stadiums – have been effective in, bluntly, stopping deaths at football grounds. However, looking more closely at how the Taylor report came about, and in particular who sanctioned it, gives an indication as to why things changed. Fans’ safety, alone, was not enough to make the authorities act. More likely, the prospect of re-branding English football to bring in the custom of a newly affluent middle class, was in the mind of Thatcher’s business-loving government, and future Premier League chairmen, when they decided that safety was finally an important issue. It cannot be a coincidence that the Premier League ‘occured’ just two years after the Taylor report.
Any move back to allowing some standing room, then, as has recently been proposed by the Football Supporters’ Federation, must convince clubs that there is profit in it for them. Because, if safety doesn’t force change, then ‘a better atmosphere at games’ certainly won’t. It’s not about what you want, it’s about what you can afford.
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