Dyche feels fans should have choice to stand – if safe to do so

Demonstration of safe-standing facilities as part of campaign to reintroduce standing areas at Bloomfield Rd.'Pictured L-R  are SISA member secretary Nathan Tate, SISA Vice Spokesperson Stephen Smith and Jon Darch of the Safe Standing Roadshow.
Demonstration of safe-standing facilities as part of campaign to reintroduce standing areas at Bloomfield Rd.'Pictured L-R are SISA member secretary Nathan Tate, SISA Vice Spokesperson Stephen Smith and Jon Darch of the Safe Standing Roadshow.

Last week, Bristol City became the first English team to introduce a safe standing area.

Areas of rail seating have been introduced at Ashton Gate in a trial, as support grows to give fans the choice to sit or stand - albeit initially the safe standing areas would only be used during Bristol rugby matches at the stadium as the current regulations prohibit their use for football matches.

Since the Hillsborough disaster and subsequent Taylor Report, which recommended that all major stadia should be all-seated, clubs in the top two divisions in England have gone down that route, redeveloping existing grounds, or moving to custom-built all-seater stadiums.

But there is a groundswell of opinion among fans, who, feel they should have the option to stand, with a move towards rail seats, which have been pioneered in the Bundesliga in Germany - seats which can lock back to lean on, or lock forward to sit on.

Many Football League clubs have backed the safe standing in principle, including Burnley, and Clarets boss Sean Dyche - who was at Hillsborough almost 25 years ago - isn’t against the idea.

He said: “The game has moved on, I think the understanding of how stadiums work, the stewarding, the policing...

“I was, unfortunately, there that fateful day at Hillsborough, with the Forest contingent, so I understand what happened there, and how it changed after that, but there is enough knowledge now that standing can start coming back in.

“I think it is partly what the consumer wants.

“If they want that, there may be ways the clubs and powers that be can manage it wisely, so maybe, I’m not sure.

“I’d take a straw poll of fans on it, because they inevitably want what they want, whether they want to stand, sit down.

“As long as it’s done in safety, which I’m sure it would be, I see no problem if the powers that be decide that.”

Understandably, the Hillsborough Family Support Group oppose plans to allow standing at games.

Margaret Aspinall said: “We have listened carefully to the arguments, but, as far as the Hillsborough Family Support Group is concerned, we had a vote on this and it was a unanimous vote that there is no such thing as safe standing.

“I do not understand why people want to go backwards after so many steps forward.”

But Dyche feels, if the safety aspect of rail seats can be guaranteed, fans should be able to have the choice to sit or stand: “There would be different ways of doing it now, I can only imagine, for it even to get looked at.

“There would be assurances, as near as you could get, to managing it and stewarding it wisely, certain ways of providing safe zones.

“I don’t think they would take it lightly.

“But fans want what they want, they know the change in atmosphere, compared to standing.

“There is a different feeling, a camaraderie to it, it adds to the mix, because people want to sit down as well.

“I think it’s been a good thing that what came out of a real disaster was the safety aspect, new stadiums, better planning of stadiums, size of stadium to size of club, and safe areas to sit and watch a game, very family-orientated.

“I don’t think you should go too far away from that, because of what happened, and I don’t think it’s affected football that badly.

“I go to games and, albeit, usually I’m in the directors’ bit or whatever, but you get a feeling around you, people are still involved in the game, still enjoying the game, emotionally involved, shouting and singing.

“So I don’t think it’s radically taken anything away from the game, and it’s certainly made it safer and more family-orientated.

“I’d leave it to the powers that be to decide.”