Paul Newman: Scunthorpe fans take firm stand in defence of terraces
The Football League Column: We all know that at every all-seated venue there are areas where people stand
Monday 22 November 2010
Ever since Brumby Hall FC played their first match at the Old Show Ground in 1899 football fans in Scunthorpe have been able to watch their team while standing on a terrace. Brumby Hall amalgamated with other clubs in the town 11 years later to form Scunthorpe and Lindsey United. They became Scunthorpe United in 1958.
Today the only non-seated area of Scunthorpe's 9,088-capacity Glanford Park stadium – they were the first League club to move into a new purpose-built home for more than 30 years when they left the Old Show Ground in 1988 – is behind one of the goals. However, unless the Keep Scunthorpe Standing campaign succeeds or Ian Baraclough's team are relegated to League One next May, the terracing in the Rainham Steel Stand will go the way of every other standing area in the top two divisions.
Scunthorpe are the last club in the Premier League or the Championship with a standing area for supporters. Safety regulations require clubs to have all-seated stadiums, although those promoted are given some leeway. Once they are into a third season in the Championship, however, the regulations state that the terraces must go.
Already the smallest stadium in the top two divisions, Glanford Park's capacity would be cut to around 8,000 if seats were installed within the present structure. Planning permission to build a bigger stand, which would maintain the current capacity, is being sought, although the development could be dependent on receiving support from the Football Foundation. Scunthorpe are one of the best-run clubs in the country and living beyond their means is not the way The Iron like to go about their business.
The national Football Supporters' Federation has its own "Safe Standing" campaign and is supporting the Scunthorpe cause. It believes current regulations have gone too far and that secure standing areas can improve safety and make watching matches a more pleasurable experience.
The FSF likes the system used in Germany, where fold-up seats are secured to old-style crush barriers, giving the option of sitting or standing. Fifa and Uefa require stadiums to be all-seated for international competitions, but the use of this type of seating means that clubs can – and do – allow fans in certain sections to stand at domestic matches.
"Because there's a barrier supporting every row of seating there's no way you are going to get the mass forward movement that was a problem on the old terraces," Malcolm Clarke, the FSF's chairman, said. "There wasn't a single ground used in the 2006 World Cup that doesn't have standing for domestic league games. For domestic matches German fans buy tickets for areas that are seated but where they're told that fans will stand. This could be an option in Britain.
"We did a survey of fans which showed that a majority want a choice of seated or standing areas – and that includes those fans who have no interest in standing. People know that it makes common sense to let the people who want to stand to go in a different part of the ground.
"We all know that at every all-seated ground there are areas where people stand. Many people don't want to stand up or have difficulty doing so, but they have to because of the people around them. At most grounds we're only talking about 15 per cent or 20 per cent of the ground that fans would want to have as standing areas."
Clarke said the fact that clubs from League One downwards are allowed to have standing areas, which have been proved to be safe, reinforced the argument. "Scunthorpe are a classic example of the absurdity of the current position," Clarke said. "With all due respect, how long are they going to stay in the Championship? If they were to get relegated they wouldn't even be allowed under the present rules to revert to standing areas outside the Championship."
The Liberal Democrats recently came out in support of a return to safe standing areas, giving Clarke encouragement that this is a campaign that can be won.
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