Standing terraces have been outlawed at major English football stadiums since the early 1990s in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster, much to the chagrin of many football fans who pine for the old days. Football stadiums are now by law “all-seaters,” which some argue diminish the atmosphere at grounds and also significantly reduce attendance numbers and income from tickets.
However, there has been a push for so-called “safe standing areas” in modern football stadiums that are designed to prevent crushes and supporter stampedes. These areas are designed to be a happy medium between the all-seater stadiums and the packed-like-sardines standing terraces from earlier eras. With an enormous amount of support from football fans, it’s thought that it is only a matter of time before safe standing will be allowed in the largest stadiums in England.
Tottenham Hotspur are building their new ground with that future law change in mind. A photo of safe standing terrace equipment installed at the new Spurs stadium was photographed and posted on Twitter yesterday, leading some to speculate that Spurs would be willing to consider standing terraces should the law allow it.
You can imagine what kind of an impact it will have if the new south stand is eventually turned into a standing terrace. The south stand is already being billed as the largest single tier stand in England. Allowing fans to stand via rail seating without the fear of stampedes and crushes will increase the number of fans allowed in the terraces but without compromising the safety of those attending the match.
Tottenham responded to the above tweet with a tweet of its own, saying that it is “trialing” safe standing hardware, but also implying that the stadium will be constructed so that rail seating can be installed in the future, what they called “future proofing.”
This is part of future proofing should legislation change. These seats are only being trialled. https://t.co/QqiJD4rZgV— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) July 27, 2017
When I was at White Hart Lane for the Bournemouth match, I stood in the south end with the rowdiest supporters. Everyone stood for the entire match in defiance of stewards, but it wasn’t exactly the most comfortable of experiences and there were no rails or anything preventing people from falling over into the people standing ahead of them. The idea of standing-specific areas that are designed for safety and atmosphere is, to my uninformed American mind, attractive.
This is also savvy foresight from the club, as it would likely not take a huge amount of effort to convert all-seater terraces to safe-standing ones, though the reality of season tickets makes it likely that any stadium conversion would be done in the offseason.
While safe standing is now common in the Bundesliga and also appearing in stadia in Scotland, no one is sure when we will see standing terraces again throughout the UK. However, it is most certainly something desired by football fans, and if the laws should ever change to allow it, Tottenham’s new stadium will be well-equipped to take advantage of it.