PART 1 – SAFE STANDING
In the first of a two-part special looking into improving the atmosphere at Ibrox, I want to discuss two issues that are fast gaining traction.
These are those surrounding safe standing, and the selling of alcohol at football grounds. Both these issues require separate analysis and are surrounded by much debate.
Before we discuss the pros and cons of safe standing, I think it is essential that I take a second to remind people of why standing stadiums have been eradicated in grounds across the UK.
Ibrox is now a five star UEFA stadium but this wasn’t always the case, and the stadium that now stands is a shrine and testament to the sixty-six people who paid the ultimate sacrifice on 1st January 1971.
It is these sixty-six lives that should be remembered whenever the topic of safe standing is broached, and it is those same people and their families whom, no matter your stance on the matter, should never be forgotten nor far be from our thoughts. These tragic events along with the disasters at Hillsborough and Bradford in the 80s set in motion the law of all-seater stadiums following the conclusion of Lord Justice Taylor’s report into events at Hillsborough.
The main argument in favour of safe standing is quite simply that it would improve the atmosphere of the ground ,thus in turn would encourage the type of fan groups we see in places like Germany and Italy allowing them to congregate in one area and be as vocal as possible, thus transferring their energy to the rest of the ground.
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After lengthy negotiations and discussions last summer, our old firm rival’s Celtic became the first top-level club to introduce safe standing in Britain since the Taylor report. It quickly gained support amongst fans of other clubs, not least of all ours but for the above reasons this topic will always be one that must be broached with caution at Ibrox.
The logistics that the incorporation of safe standing at Ibrox would present are challenging even without consideration of the New Years Day tragedy. Careful thought and planning would be required to assess where partitions should be placed and how to address the problems associated with relocating fans out of their existing season seats, seats they may have held for many years. Changing something that will have become tradition for many has the potential to cause great unrest and therefore all possible precautions would have to be taken to limit the fallout from such a bold change. A thorough assessment would be required in order to evaluate which stand would best accommodate a safe standing section.
My preference would be for the East and West enclosures to be reinstated as standing sections as it was in years gone by. I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at the last game played with a standing section and I feel that a true replication of the historic atmosphere would be best achieved by changing these locations back to as they were then.
Other options muted would be the bottom corner of the Broomland Rd stand that is currently occupied by the blue order or as many have suggested into one of the corners of the stadium, these create issues in housing opposition fans and in what to do when Celtic come for the two fixtures per season.
On a personal note, having been fortunate enough myself on a number of occasions to have taken in matches in the Bundesliga and throughout Europe. I fully understand the arguments in favour of safe standing and all it brings to enhance the atmospheres of sometimes dull football games, not least in Scotland where we can find ourselves playing the same teams on more than a few occasions throughout a season.
I hope the board listen to all opinions and consider all relevant facts before reaching a conclusion on this matter. My feelings are that the families of the sixty-six fallen should be consulted, and whatever they deem appropriate, I will support. It was in their honour that Ibrox was rebuilt and so as long as it stands and long after they be remembered
Let me know your views at @steven_harrigan and @rangersnewsuk on Twitter