Just before the end of the season there was chatter about safe standing again. The other week, when there were more important things going on in Parliament, the issue regarding rail seating again was raised. Apparently it has the backing of the opposition now. In my own personal opinion this discussion, in the current climate, is rather distasteful as there are still proceedings taking place regarding the involvement of certain law enforcement groups / former officials of the club / retired law enforcement officers etc. in the terrible tragedy at Hillsborough, their “handling” of the aftermath and the subsequent “inquiries” since. For me, and I stress that this is my own view, until these proceedings are over and done with, complete with a concise investigation and it’s conclusions drawn, this discussion should not take place.

Whilst I am aware that my view goes against the view of the vocal groups backing the return of terracing and the makers of rail seating, I think the discussion should be more focused on supporters being allowed to have the right to choose whether they want sections of their grounds made into terracing or rail seating. As this is what it will boil down to in the end. Currently the law states that grounds must be all seater, to comply with the safety regulations. If rail seating is agreed, the clubs will have to spend money to convert whichever areas they choose to designate the safe standing area. This will cost money, which undoubtedly will be passed onto us, the paying fans, and it may cost some their seats. Some supporters have had their seats for decades, some will be very attached to their “seat” and may not be too happy to be usurped by the vocal minority. Before anyone jumps down my throat about rail seating increasing the capacity – it doesn’t make much difference, so clubs won’t be raking it in on extra ticket sales, we, the supporters, will bear that cost. I wonder in the eventuality of the club suddenly announcing it is happening, whether they will face another onslaught of change.org?

Hence, make your choice… even though I couldn’t resist putting a picture of the long gone Jiggy up.

The choice of whether to stand or sit for regular away travellers is basically a thing of the past, there is no choice. Let’s face it, for those fans who don’t have the stamina to stand up for 90 minutes, away games are difficult. There aren’t really the facilities in stadia now where the less able amongst us can have a perch. Yes, there are supposed to be “ambulant disabled” areas, but those tickets, like the disabled tickets are like gold dust. This is especially bad at away grounds with small capacities, (how pleased was I that Burton got relegated!) or grounds where our allocation has been reduced due to the police or the home clubs restrictions. Before we start with safe standing, how about we concentrate on safe seating? (see next blog)

We are all getting that little bit older, but just because our bodies can’t take it, it doesn’t mean that we aren’t still the best supporters in the land. We can look back on the old black and white photos and footage of 100,000+ crowds of fans (mostly men) of varying ages crammed into packed stands at Cup finals. When Cup finals meant something , of course (moot point). But in those days there was an element of respect, respect of our seniors and our peers and that little bit of common courtesy for those less able. Sadly, that common courtesy and unselfishness, is sadly lacking in the “modern” era of football. Celebrations of goal scoring have moved on from the cheering and clapping of players to throwing yourself and others around like rag dolls, resulting in flailing arms and legs rippling down the rather steep stands (Norwich for example) with a domino like effect. So whilst the initiators have a jolly good time, someone down the stand ends up with more serious injuries, like I said common courtesy, self awareness and responsibility for your actions….

Fan bases have also changed. More and more children are being encouraged to watch the sport, in hope that they can be put on the straight and narrow, before the peer pressures from their mates to follow the “popular” teams takes hold. The younger dads (and mothers!) want to take young children, but safety for a 5 year old is very different from that of a 15 year old. If the parent has a ticket in the Kop or the South Stand, would they want their small child to be caught up in a crush? The older amongst us will remember that crush, the feeling of being caught in a wave, until you ended up being stuck against the barrier with the weight of fifty or more people on top of you. The wiser amongst us stood at the back or on the peripheries, the foolhardy and brave in the middle, the one who stood at the barrier was someone who would do it once and never again! Rail seating apparently negates that crush, but judging by the surges currently happening at away games where the stewards are supposed to ensure everyone stays in their seat, I can’t see that it will make any difference.

Then there are those who aren’t actually watching the game, they are just out for a “day out” which will involve alcohol (the throwing around of rather than actually drinking it), possibly illegal substances, constant slagging off a particular player or players, or the manager, or the owner, shouting abuse at the opposition fans and players, arguing with people around them who don’t agree with what they are saying and generally not watching anything that is going on the pitch itself. These people weren’t around in the football grounds of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s as money was wiser spent then and drink, well let’s just say drink wasn’t wasted in those days. Needless to say, these people aren’t supporting their team.

I can understand that some may think that rail seating will create a better atmosphere. My reply to that would be playing good football and winning games creates a better atmosphere. Millwall at home last season, down to 10 men and 3-2 up with 4 minutes (which ended up as 6 minutes) to go, was a brilliant atmosphere. Every man, woman and child was behind the team believing that we could do it, even though we didn’t hold out in the end. Supporting your team and getting behind the team- that’s what creates a good atmosphere.

I was lucky enough to be at the game against 1860 decades ago, so I have first hand experience of rail seating. Celtic already have rail seating as they are not bound by the English Football regulations, I can’t say that I am aware of anyone constantly crowing on about how brilliant the atmosphere is at grounds with rail seating. In fact if the popular press is to be believed, the best atmosphere at a football game is to be experienced in the very sterile atmosphere of the premier league of all places! I have been lucky enough to have been to the Nou Camp, the Bernabeu, the Mestella, the Vincente Calderon, the Stadio Delle Alpi (before they moved), the Stadio Olimpico, some of the best stadia in Europe (without rail seating), and when the crowd is behind the team, the atmosphere is electric, as it was at Elland Road in the Championship title season and the European / Champions League era.

Just get behind the team, support Leeds United, that’s what we are there for after all, isn’t it? Support your team through thick and thin, or just go do something else. Make your choice