The Last Word: As painful as Hillsborough remains, it’s time to reclaim lost spirit of the terraces

A lot has changed in football since the 1980s and the game has thrived

We have reflected once again this week on the legacies of Hillsborough a year after an independent panel exposed a top-level cover-up over England’s worst stadium disaster.

Unfortunately for the families of the 96 Liverpool fans who died at that fateful FA Cup semi-final in April 1989, the painstaking inquiry into alleged police misconduct is stymied in inaction or, at the very best, inertia.

While the relatives of the victims cannot move on without the requisite justice, the tragedy is also holding back a wider debate about safe standing.

The very notion of any reintroduction of standing is abhorrent to those directly affected by Hillsborough and this is understandable. It is a highly emotive issue. But we are not talking about a wholesale return to the bad old days when unregulated terraces allowed pockets of hooliganism to fester like sores on the game. The safe standing lobby, spearheaded by the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF), is targeting 10 to 20 per cent of capacity at most.

The campaign, which is growing in momentum and could soon be introduced at Celtic after the Scottish Premier League sanctioned pilot schemes, is at its most basic a consumer-driven response.

Not all fans want to watch football the same way. Clubs are not serving the needs of all their customers if they insist everyone sits still for 90 minutes when a small, but significant, number would prefer to stand, sing and shout. It’s just bad business.

The truth is that many fans are out of their seats for large parts of the match anyway. “Persistent standing” is the bane of stewards’ lives up and down the country. Some clubs are more successful at policing it than others. Some have just accepted it as a fact of life. Cardiff City’s “singing sections” are an acknowledgement that standing is tolerated in designated areas despite the fact it is officially forbidden. Since 1994, following a change in legislation in response to Hillsborough and the subsequent Taylor Report, all clubs in the Premier League and the Championship must have all-seater stadiums.

It is not illegal for spectators to stand but, under a civil contract they effectively sign by buying a ticket, they can be thrown out. At Cardiff, they aren’t. It is a stance supported by the council after a club-commissioned study by Dr Steve Frosdick, an expert in crowd dynamics, concluded it would not compromise safety and might even improve it.

It would be an interesting test case if the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA), a quango, challenged Cardiff’s interpretation of the law. Equally, if the SGSA lets it slide, it sets a precedent for others such as Aston Villa, Hull City, Sunderland, Swansea and Crystal Palace, the only other Premier League clubs to publicly back the FSF’s safe standing campaign.

As English football fans gaze enviously at Germany, where ticket prices are lower, atmospheres feel less corporate and the national team does not continually disappoint, it has not gone unnoticed that safe standing is a prominent feature.

Rail seats, which flip up for domestic games and lock down to comply with rules in the Champions League, are a popular innovation. Why not try them here?

Cardiff’s experiment has not resulted in more disorderly behaviour, a commonly cited counter-argument. The club earned the title of most family-friendly in the Football League last season.

As Superintendent Steven Graham, match day commander at the West Midlands Police and a proponent of safe standing, said: “If you put a decent person on a terrace, they’re a decent person. If you put someone with criminal intent in a seated area, they’re someone with criminal intent... To say that just because you put someone in a standing area, they will misbehave, is fundamentally wrong.”

In the long shadow cast by Hillsborough, it would be a brave government that amended the law only to have a major incident. Hugh Robertson, the sports minister, backed by the English leagues, prefers the status quo while pointing out that seated stadiums have improved the overall fan experience.

A lot has changed in football since the 1980s, however, and the game has thrived as a result. Resisting calls for safe standing trials runs contrary to the Premier League’s evolutionary ethos, which has underpinned its success.

There is an opportunity to reclaim the disenfranchised by reinventing some of the lost spirit of the terraces, minus the criminality, and democratising the match-day experience through increased capacity and lower prices. The memories of Hillsborough, as awful as they are, should not stand in the way of progress.

Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
people
Arts and Entertainment
Tulisa as a judge on the X Factor in 2012
tvLouis Walsh confirms star's return
Life and Style
fashionClothes shop opens on Bill Clinton Boulevard in Pristina
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Life and Style
life
News
Melissa and Joan Rivers together at an NBC event in May 2014
peopleDaughter Melissa thanks fans for 'outpouring of support'
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone