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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 March 2007, 10:19 GMT
Terrace backers look to Germany
By Matt Slater

The terraces at Werder Bremen
Werder Bremen's standing area with the seats locked up
Campaigners for the return of standing areas at British football grounds say the Bundesliga provides evidence that it can be done safely.

Stadia in England's top two divisions have had to be all-seater ever since the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

But the German FA resisted pressure to follow suit and at least 10% of tickets at Bundesliga games must be standing.

German stadium expert Professor Gunter Pilz said: "We have never had safety problems with standing in Germany."

Fans groups the Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) and Stand Up Sit Down (SUSD) are leading a campaign to re-open the case for standing sections in England's top two divisions. And they both point to Germany as an example of how this can be done without jeopardising safety.

In the nearly six years of the VELTINS-Arena, there has not been a single incident or injury that was caused by having standing terraces

Volker Fuerderer
Schalke 04 safety officer
So far their efforts have been ignored by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Football Licensing Authority (FLA), the body created to implement the Taylor Report's post-Hillsborough recommendations.

But with surveys suggesting English fans are in favour of a return to limited standing areas, cross-party support for a parliamentary debate on the subject and positive noises from a number of clubs, the pro-standing lobby appears to be gaining ground.

A recent FSF mission to Germany found that many fans - young and old, male and female - choose to stand in designated areas, generating passionate support at a fraction of the price English fans are asked to pay for their seats.

606: DEBATE

For example, Saturday sees first play third in the Bundesliga when Schalke 04 host Stuttgart at their state-of-the-art VELTINS-Arena in Gelsenkirchen.

The stadium, which hosted games in last summer's World Cup, has a capacity of 61,000 with over 16,000 standing places. Adult standing tickets are nine euros, with children getting in for six euros - this means a parent could take a child for about 10, with travel to and from the ground included.

The VELTINS-Arena has staggered barriers on every fourth step of its standing section. These can be easily removed and replaced with seating for international and European club games that operate under all-seater rules.

Standing is part of German football culture and there is no evidence at all that it is more dangerous than sitting

Professor Gunter Pilz
Hannover University
When asked about the ground's accident record, safety officer Volker Fuerderer said: "In the nearly six years of the VELTINS-Arena, there has not been a single incident or injury that was caused by having standing terraces."

When the FSF asked Borussia Dortmund for injury statistics for its 25,000-capacity standing section, Europe's largest, it was told the club do not keep statistics for injuries inside the ground as they were not an issue.

Pilz, from the Institute of Sports Science at Hannover University, told BBC Sport: "Standing is part of German football culture and there is no evidence at all that it is more dangerous than sitting.

"You can't sing and make a good atmosphere when you are sitting. And German fans like to be able to move around during a game. Sometimes fans move around more during the game than some of the players."

Pilz has debated the issue of safe standing sections with Sepp Blatter, the boss of world football's governing body Fifa.

"When I spoke to Blatter about the all-seater rule he said it was a question of security," said Pilz.

"But during the World Cup you had people standing on their seats to get a better view - that is far more dangerous because in panic situations you could get a domino effect.

Schalke 04 fans
Schalke fans may have another trophy to celebrate this year
"He then asked me if I knew of any opera venues that had standing areas. I told him that he can't be very well-educated as every opera venue in Germany has cheap, standing places.

"He wants football spectators to be like people at the opera or theatre, all sitting down. I told him when that happens football will be dead because it will have no atmosphere and no interest."

Concerns about ticket prices and a perceived lack of atmosphere at many English grounds have bolstered the case among fans for a return to standing areas in the top two divisions, as have the inconsistencies in the DCMS/FLA legislation.

Both the FSF and SUSD have repeatedly asked the authorities why standing is allowed at other sports, football below the Championship and even music concerts at all-seater football stadia.

The issue of many fans simply ignoring the rules and standing up anyway, often upsetting supporters that want to sit and causing friction with stewards attempting to police the situation, has also been raised.

Answers to these questions have not been forthcoming but a DCMS spokesperson told BBC Sport that any move to bring back standing areas would be a "retrograde step" and that no new evidence existed to suggest otherwise.

It is funny how we always hear about Germany - what about France or Italy?

John de Quidt
Football Licensing Authority
The DCMS has also been silent on the fact that only 9% of fans at Premier League games are under 24 and the average age of the crowd has crept up to 43.

The FLA's chief executive John de Quidt, however, said the German example was not "suitable" for English football.

He told BBC Sport he had been to Hamburg's AOL Arena to look at their solution - terrace steps that rotate through 180 degrees to enable both standing and seating options.

"There is no way that could work in England. (The Hamburg stand) was built on a huge site and on solid ground with no concourses underneath," said de Quidt.

"That kind of structure would not have fitted in any existing ground in England. It requires too much land and is too expensive.

Borussia Dortmund's away end
The seats at Dortmund are wheeled out for European nights
"The German approach has to be seen in the context of giving cheap access to football matches. But English fans have paid an extra price for a high quality product. It is funny how we always hear about Germany. What about France or Italy?"

Pilz, however, disagreed with de Quidt's claim that the German model was necessarily more expensive or required more land.

"Look at Bochum or Wolfsburg. They are small grounds. So that is not true," said Pilz.

The AOL Arena is also at the more hi-tech end of the spectrum. At Werder Bremen's Weserstadion, seats are connected to barriers that run along the length of every second step in the standing section. They are flipped up and locked for domestic games, and flipped down and unlocked for European and international games, with a 50% reduction in capacity.

The German FA, in fact, is so convinced of the safety of standing sections, and the benefits they bring in terms of atmosphere and social inclusion, it has asked Fifa for permission to allow standing at international games. So far that permission has not been granted.

Pilz said: "As we saw during the World Cup, the current laws are ridiculous and suit only the VIPs. But nothing will change until other national associations join Germany in asking for standing areas."



SEE ALSO
Comment: Let's talk about terraces
14 Mar 07 |  Football
Calls grow for return of terraces
14 Mar 07 |  Football
Man Utd fans plan ticket protest
23 Feb 07 |  Football
Cameron terraces pledge to fans
31 Jan 07 |  UK Politics
Caborn hails Ewood ticket pledge
27 Jan 07 |  Football
Football fans take a stand
11 Jan 02 |  Politics
Football split over terrace return
22 Dec 00 |  Football
Hillsborough 10 years on
16 Apr 99 |  Hillsborough


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