It’s a touchy topic, and even touchy feels too casual of an adjective when describing the re-introduction of standing areas to Premier League grounds. Yet according to the BBC, Aston Villa wants to move forward with plans to install rail-seating at Villa Park, and is asking the British government to lift the “all-seater” rule for the first time in 25 years.
“All-seater stadiums” — which sound just as they are — have been mandatory in the Championship and Premier League since the Hillsborough disaster of 1989 that left 96 spectators crushed inside of Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium during the FA Cup semi-final.
Villa want to use areas of their stadium as a trial, and says there are 7-8 other Premier League clubs who are interested in the experiment (How they drew the short straw to go public with the idea is anyone’s guess). The concept for the proposed “safe standing” areas was discussed by Aston Villa football operations manager Lee Preece:
“The desire to further the debate is moving quickly. But we’re keen to support the Football Supporters’ Federation and advance the debate so we can get to the point where we can decide if we’re going to do this or not.
“The supporters will see the benefits of their own matchday experience in terms of atmosphere. For us as a club, perhaps the biggest advantage is around the issue of fans standing in areas that are licensed for seating only. “
It’s dicey. Does it solve an inconvenience? Maybe. Is it necessary? Hardly. And, as a spokesperson for the Hillsborough Family Support Group states, it can certainly be viewed as insensitive in light of ongoing investigations into the disaster.
Margaret Aspinall lost her son James in the disaster:
“I find it very insensitive at this moment in time because obviously the most important thing for the families is these inquests,” Aspinall told BBC Sport.
“We’ve got the 25th anniversary coming up, now we feel as if this is like another battle. We feel as if ‘why bring it up at this time when we’ve not had any accountability whatsoever for the 96 deaths’.
“I just wish them 96 could have been at an all-seater stadium. It cost them their lives for us to try and make it safe for everybody else, so please try and understand our position. We are not opposing. We are not against you. All we want is your safety.”
Maybe I’m too on the periphery here, but the standing room idea just seems absolutely unnecessary at this time. Admittedly the practice of “standing room only” is commonplace here in the U.S., but stepping back and analyzing the history makes me want to say, “No thanks.”