Manchester City is reported to be another of the top flight Clubs looking at the possibility of safe standing in the Etihad Stadium. Personally, I don’t think it is an option.
While those among us recall the heady days in the Kippax, especially the fun and games on Derby Day, nowadays there are many agencies against the wholesale reintroduction of “safe” standing areas.
The Sports Grounds Safety Authority does not really support it, nor do they want to. They are the producers of the “Green Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds” which is currently being rewritten. Within this document, which is, in fact, a book, is contained much of the criteria under which football clubs have to act to ensure they can present their football matches every week.
Within it are many calculations and provisos which clubs need to adhere to one or two of which are the rake or gradient that a stand must have before standing can be considered an option. Then there is the exit provision. The Guide dictates how quickly it should take the stadium to be fully evacuated in the event of things like the Bradford City Fire or indeed Hillsborough, although it is unlikely that a stadium these days would be destroyed by fire, and the problems caused at Hillsborough are considered to be a thing of the past.
For instance, most stadiums should have an evacuation time of something like nine minutes based on the number of people the stadium holds and the exit routes available to those attending the match. So let us say that Block 116 at the Etihad holds around 750 fans. Calculations for standing v seating might be something like 1.6 standers per seat. This means that there would be 1200 standers in an area designed for 750 seated supporters. The exit route at the back is planned to get 750 out of the stadium in the allotted time. It would be impossible to get the full 1200 out at the same time unless the exit gap at the back of the block was substantially increased in size.
It would be possible with Celtic-style rail seating where one person can stand in front of one seat. Here the dynamics remain the same but imagine if they removed the seats in the block and only had 750 people standing there. The block would look empty. Even with 1200 people in there, it wouldn’t look busy.
Interestingly, despite the SGSA and local Safety Advisory Groups opposing standing in seated areas, there are no statistics to suggest that this is unsafe. This happens every week, every match in the Premier League and I don’t think there have been any notifiable injuries caused by this.
The rail seating seems to work superbly at Borussia Dortmund, where the fans are a lot more lively than at the Etihad, or indeed more or less any stadium in England, but I am convinced it is not a route down which too many authorities want to trek. I am at a meeting at West Bromwich Albion next Thursday. If there are any developments, I’ll let you know.