Written by Jamie Byrne
At the start of the 2016/2017 season, Celtic became the United Kingdom’s first team to have a safe standing section within the stadium. This section is found in the North Curve of Celtic Park, which has a capacity of 2,600 fans. This is the home to the ultra-group, the “Green Brigade” who are known worldwide for their political views and exceptional atmosphere they create. Celtic needed Glasgow council and eventually the Scottish Parliaments permission, on the project which many found highly controversial, due to the 96 Liverpool fans that died while standing, at the Hillsborough stadium. However, Parliament eventually agreed on the project, due to meeting every safety regulation.
Celtic are not the pioneers of safe standing in European football. It has been commonly seen throughout Dutch and German football who are also highly regarded for their fantastic atmosphere, especially teams such as Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Feyenoord. What many don’t know, is that during European matches, teams who do have standing sections, including Celtic, must change the standing areas to seated areas, due to Uefa Regulations. So, seats are popped out the railing and made available for the fans in the standing sections.
It has been rumoured that many English super clubs such as Liverpool and Manchester United, as well as smaller Premier League clubs such as West Brom and Crystal Palace, have sent representatives to see the spectacle of the North Curve. Many people believe that safe standing could be the solution to the increasingly poor atmosphere found in stadiums, in the top division of England.
Ever since the safe standing has been put in place in Parkhead, attendances have rocketed in the East of Glasgow. The atmosphere being just as good in Champions League games against Barcelona as it has been at Scottish Premiership games against Ross County. However, the more probable cause of this is the new attractive football Brendan Rodgers has brought to Celtic, which is an extraordinary contrast to the boring and quite frankly depressing football created by ex-Celtic manager Ronny Deila.
If the atmosphere improved for these English clubs by adding standing sections, it could result in English teams performing better in Europe. An example of this is Arsenal’s recent 5-1 loss to Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. A factor I feel that contributed towards the embarrassing defeat was that the players were not able to cope with the intimidating atmosphere created by the Bayern supporters. Partly, due to being used to the horrific atmosphere in the Emirates. This isn’t just aimed at Arsenal either. Manchester City, a multi-billion pound club, who had one player double the value of the whole Celtic team, were unable to beat Celtic on two occasions this season, earning two very lucky draws. This isn’t just for the English clubs either. The English national team saw an embarrassing defeat in the Euro’s against Iceland, a country which Glasgow has nearly double the population than. Iceland who were highly complimented for their inspiring fans, who created a fantastic and intimidating atmosphere in France, potentially were a factor for England’s embarrassing exit from the competition.
However, sadly due to the outrageous finances in the English game, which has affected the game in many ways. This has meant that this idea would be a waste of money and time for the fans. I was recently at the Manchester United vs Chelsea match at Old Trafford where United came out 2-0 surprising winners. This was my first English Premier League match, and the quality of football was admittedly miles ahead of Scotland. However, when I was at my seat I found it very hard to see a fan actually from Manchester or someone who genuinely seemed like they supported the club. Almost everyone I saw looked like they were on a day out, with their selfie sticks, recently bought Pogba emoji t-shirts and £8 pizza. I was also sat right beside the travelling Chelsea fans, who it seemed that they couldn’t formulate a song which consisted of at least three different words. United were playing fantastic football, but it seemed like the majority of people I was beside didn’t actually care about the score or the football in general, they were just happy to be there. I get a general sense that this is what it’s like at all the big teams in England from what I’ve seen on television and heard from other people.
Safe standing could possibly work south of the boarder and I could be completely wrong and it could eventually rejuvenate the whole of the English game and bring it back to the top of the football universe. However, I feel atmosphere in the top English league is lost cause due to the finance of the league from humongous wealth made from television rights and other sources, which has made it a heartless league, where the top teams no longer cherish their true fans. This has meant that instead of there now being tourist clubs, it has now become a tourist league.
What do you think to these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!