Modern Football And The Spectre Of Stadium Terracing

DORTMUND, GERMANY - MARCH 19: Fans of Dortmund are celebrating prior to the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and FSV Mainz 05 at Signal Iduna Park on March 19, 2011 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Joern Pollex/Bongarts/Getty Images)

In light of the Premier League rejecting refreshed calls for the re-introduction of terracing, it’s pertinent to have a look at this often emotional football topic.

The Premier League’s decision to reject the re-introduction of terracing outright was particularly telling. The Premier League crushed any hope of a healthy debate that a percentage of football fans and the Football Supporters’ Federation in particular had an interest in having and ultimately, having terracing re-introduced within English stadiums. Despite that, there are still a percentage of football fans who want to see terracing re-introduced. The aforementioned Football Supporters’ Federation have already started a petition in aid of it’s terracing cause.

Terracing is a sensitive and often emotive issue in England, mainly due to the Hillsborough tragedy and its repercussions. I’ve visited Liverpool FC’s memorial for the Hillsborough victims alongside the Shankly Gates. The emotion felt there was raw and almost tangible. In light of Hillsborough, a decision cannot be made lightly if and when terracing is to be re-introduced back into the Premier League.

Both the Premier League and various local authorities believe re-introducing terracing would be a severe health and safety hazard. It’s thought that terracing could lead to the unthinkable happening again, hence the Premier League’s immediate dismissal of starting to think and ultimately re-introduce terracing.

Tottenham Hotspur is one Premier League club that has an issue with persistent standing within their ground, White Hart Lane. It has escaped no one’s notice that Tottenham’s new stadium will not have any terracing, nor was it even thought of mainly due to the fact that English Premier League stadiums must be all-seaters. This has been a rule of thumb since 1994 throughout England.

Germany and the Bundesliga in particular is often referenced as a beacon for safe and enjoyable standing within modern stadia. Both Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion and Werder Bremen’s Weserstadion have among the largest terraced stands throughout football. In the case of Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion, the ground holds the biggest terraced stand, with up to 25,000 being occupied in the southern part of the stadium alone. Also, Borussia Dortmund are due to compete in European competition next season. UEFA have said that they’ll have to put seats on their terraces to comply with UEFA regulations for European games. The Premier League isn’t alone in not wanting terracing, as UEFA’s standpoint on terracing proves.

The environment in standing areas of football grounds can be rambunctious and enthralling. On the occasions I’ve been to White Hart Lane and Wembley Stadium, most fans are standing, especially in the upper tiers of each ground. You either stand, or have your view of the football pitch blocked. That said, when the home team scores, the emotion and glee expressed amongst your fellow fans is quite unique.

As always in football, the decision on whether to re-introduce terracing within the Premier League and Championship divisions will be made by those at the top with a passing thought at those who make the game and atmosphere what it is: Yes, the fans. Both the British Government and Premier League believe all-seater stadiums provide greater safety and comfort to the fans. For now, they’ll be no terracing introduced in the near future, and it's unlikely that it will happen even into the distant future.
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