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As the football world remembers the Hillsborough disaster, the Daily Echo asks if fans will ever stand on terraces again?
During the past week football remembered one of the worst tragedies to hit the game.
A total of 96 people lost their lives and 766 others were injured 25 years ago on April 15, 1989, during an FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.
Fans were crushed as more than 3,000 people piled into the terraced Leppings Lane stand, forcing safety barriers to give way and pinning supporters up against steel fences.
Players and fans alike marked the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster with a minute’s silence, culminating in an emotional service at Anfield.
The anniversary has reignited the debate over whether safe terracing can ever be reintroduced into English stadiums.
Terraced stadiums are a prominent feature in continental leagues, with clubs such as German Bundesliga side Bourissia Dortmund showing how safe standing can work in the modern game at its 80,000-capacity Westfalenstadion.
The club has installed terraced areas using the rail-seat method – a popular style of seating used by others clubs in the Bundesliga, Austria, and Sweden.
It is a method that is approved for use as seats by Uefa and Fifa, which means the seats are put up for league games but lowered for European matches.
The seats can be unlocked or locked to create standing or seated areas.
Fans’ group the Football Supporters’ Federation launched its safe standing campaign, which aims to persuade the Government, football authorities and clubs to accept the case for introducing limited sections of standing areas at grounds in the Premier League and the Championship.
Earlier this year, Premier League side Aston Villa said it would back proposals to introduce safe standing in Premier League grounds and have offered to conduct a trial of rail-seats at Villa Park.
Other Premier League clubs, including Swansea, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Cardiff City, and Hull City, have also pledged their support for the safe standing campaign.
It is supported by the likes of Watford, Wolves, and even Pompey, but Saints have yet to back the cause.
And this year Bristol City became the first club in the country to install rail seats on a trial basis at its Ashton Gate stadium.
But could a safe-standing section work at St Mary’s?
Saints fan Daren Wheeler told the Daily Echo he would love to see safe terracing at St Mary’s but believes clubs these days would not see it as cost effective.
He said: “It is one of those things which has had its time. With so many new stadiums being built, the question is whether it is cost- effective.
“I have never got the theory that seating is safer. If there is any type of emergency, what is going to be easier to deal with for the emergency services? Getting across a packed, narrow seating area or a terraced area?
“If you had an emergency in the Northam block, there would be chaos.
“I 100 per cent back the club’s proposing a trial. People have been standing at football grounds for years and they still do as it is an emotional event.
“If you really love football you are not going to be sat on your backside for 90 minutes.
“Another thing I don’t understand is if we want to discuss safe standing how come it is acceptable to stand on a train going at 100mph but not at a football ground when you are standing still?
“The Bundesliga has been doing it for years without any trouble.”
Fellow Saints fan Steve Grant said: “I’d like to see some form of allowable standing in Premier League grounds, but considering the number of people who continue to stand even under the current legislation, implementing safe standing as has been advertised would seem to be a bit of a waste of money on the part of the clubs.
“Initially, clubs should liaise more with their fans to have designated blocks where standing is allowed, so those who wish to sit don’t have their views blocked, while those who wish to stand can do so without heavy-handed stewards causing problems at every break in play.
“Once clubs and fans have proven they can work together within that framework, then there’s a case to go to the next step and look at areas with fold-away seats.”
David Rose, deputy chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Federation, told the Daily Echo its campaign is not looking to introduce the old-style terraces back into modern-day stadia.
He said: “Initially we are hoping there will be a trial and for clubs to have a choice.
“We are not proposing to revert back to the old-style terraces in the two top flights.
“One of the options is the safe-standing model with a rail. It does not create a forward motion like the old style.
“Aston Villa have been great in terms of looking at the arguments around it.
“From a personal point of view, one of the reasons why I would like to see terraces back is the atmosphere. We don’t sit down in church when singing, and there are times of excitement in games when we expect fans to stand up.
“It’s a game that is natural to stand up in and we recognise that a lot of people want to sit down.”
Southampton FC were unavailable for comment.
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