Today’s news that Celtic have introduced a ‘safe-standing’ area in the coming years, with Dundee Utd set to follow, has opened up the debate as to whether we should follow suit. The atmosphere (or lack of it) at Ibrox, is a problem which has been avoided for the past three seasons. With the new board in place and fresh optimism about the future, surely it’s time to make Ibrox roar again.
It’s obvious that recent divisions between fans have upset the dynamic within the stadium. Younger supporters crave a European style experience – singing and standing for 90 minutes – whereas the older generation, who’ve held season tickets for decades enjoy a more traditional, relaxed experience. Both are absolutely credible and every paying customer should have the right to a suitable day out.
With safe-standing, those who wish to sing and stand for 90 minutes can do so without disturbing those around them. It will help increase both the noise levels and the capacity of Ibrox. It will encourage fans and freinds to stand together and with the increased capacity of the stadium, it’ll potentially make way for reduced ticket prices – more likely to be next season.
So where would the section be located?
The reaction from fans today seems fairly mixed with regards to a preferred the section. Celtic have used a section of around 1400 seats (which will increase to 2800) – not that we need to copy them.
If we were to use a similar size, it would be sensible to find an area with the least amount of season ticket holders – to avoid the possibility of asking them to move. I’m sure any unhappy holders could be compensated with reduced prices for the season.
The Broomloan Road stand currently holds around 7’500 fans. Around a quarter of this could be used for a safe standing area – perhaps the current location of the Union Bears. The UB could help implement the atmosphere side of things. Using this area would mean a capacity increase of around 1500, using the average size of rail seats. Whether the club would want an increased capacity for away fans during Old Firm matches would be a potential stumbling block.
When seating was initially introduced to Ibrox, it was the Enclosure that remained standing. This could potentially be another option. Again the issue of season ticket holders would have to be addressed, but a return to standing in the enclosure could be a thing of beauty.
Is it Safe?
The issue of safety at Ibrox is obviously of major concern given the tragedies that have sadly stricken the club in the past. In his report on the Hillsbrough Disaster, Lord Justice Taylor cited the summary of recommendations from his Technical Working Party that stated that “standing accommodation is not intrinsically unsafe”.
The Football Licensing Authority (now the SGSA), when challenged by the Football Supporters Federation to back up the statistics they were using to support such claims, had to admit they could not be substantiated and withdrew them, conceding that “…the injury statistics we produce do not provide firm statistical evidence that standing is less safe than seating”.
Obviously the club have a list of priorities more important than safe standing at the minute, but once those have been addressed the safe standing idea should definitely be considered for future financial benefits. A strong Rangers team competing again in the premiership will no doubt have a high number of sell-out matches. This is where safe standing increases revenue.
For example 1800 fans paying £30 per ticket comes to substantially less than say 3300 fans paying £20. This is the model the Germans have modelled themselves on very successfully, and we should now be following them.