Martin Hardy: Peterborough lead campaign to stand up for terracing
Life Beyond the Premier League
There's a strange old situation at Peterborough United. If manager Darren Ferguson can turn their season around – they have taken one point from the last eight games – and lead them from the foot of the Championship to safety, half of their ground will have to close.
If they fail to arrest the slump and fall into League One, the terraces behind each goal that give visiting supporters at London Road a vision of what watching football used to be about (not that long ago) will remain.
A promoted club into England's top two divisions has three seasons to make their ground all-seater. Peterborough, who went up in 2011, have plans for the hugely popular Moys End, where visiting fans stand (Middlesbrough's fans brought banners calling for its saving last season). A new stand will be built there, incorporating classrooms, sometime shortly.
But it is at the home end, on the London Road Terrace, that Peterborough are hoping to trial the new system that may change the way football is watched in this country. Chief executive Bob Symns went to Hannover to test the seating that is such a feature of the Bundesliga. There, the desire to create safe standing areas (or rail seats as he calls them) gives ends the versatility of being all-seater if the game is sanctioned by Uefa (currently not one of Peterborough's priorities, admittedly) or with the turn of an allen key, all standing, with a metal bar in the fans' own personal space, a little like your own barrier to lean on.
The Hillsborough Independent Panel's historic verdict has given oxygen to the suggestion that fans may stand again in this country. Officially. Therein lies much of Symns', and the Football Supporters' Federation's, safe standing argument. Fans are still standing in their numbers at games, in all-seater stadia.
"We have a national challenge of people standing in seated areas," he said. "I went to Hannover and had a good look. It just seems such a sensible option. You have to be very respectful of what happened at Hillsborough, which I am.
"I couldn't help be impressed by what I saw at Hannover. They give you safer standing than standing in a seating area. I spoke to our fans and we have to make our ground all-seater. They said they will stand in the new stand.
"My whole point is, let's trial it. I'm not saying we have to have it. Let's trial it. We're trialling goal-line technology, this seems a sensible time to do this as well. Let us pop these in at one end of our ground. You wouldn't have to travel to Germany to see how it works. You can invite the government, the FA and safety advisory groups to see it in action."
The FSF has led the way on this and has the support of Aston Villa and others for a trial. The meeting at Portcullis House in Westminster on Tuesday showed there is a growing audience for the possibility of change now that it has been proven, through the HIP report, that fans did not cause their own deaths at Hillsborough.
"It was quite a big step for the safe standing campaign," he added. "An expert in safety was there, senior match commanders were on board, as are our local police and safety officers. You can't make 1,000 people sit at once. Let's make it safer where they stand.
"As an individual, I want to sit. Potentially, we've reached a stage where you cannot get some sections of supporters to sit down. There is a safer way of managing it. We're not saying change the rules, we're saying trial it.
"It doesn't make a lot of difference financially. People say you'll get more in but that depends. There are different sizes. It is said to be 1.5 to 1.8 more people to each seat. They can be made as wide as you want so it may not be that different.
"They won't be cheap to put in. I'm talking about safety, and these are safer. That is the starting point."
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