Clubs Could Benefit From Safe Standing


Rail seats at VfL Wolfsburg, Germany. Credit: Jon Darch

Across the Premier League there is an ongoing debate about reintroducing safe standing at grounds for domestic matches. For the fans, it would help to generate better atmosphere on game days, but there are fears over safety.

But football fandom has moved on from the horrors of the 1980s, and there are benefits for both supporters and clubs if standing is introduced carefully, gradually and with an understanding that any trouble will mean a permanent return to fully seated grounds.

So how can it be done. As with many other things in football these days, the Germans offer a good example. Rather than just a large terrace on which free movement is possible — and therefore large movements of people and the potential for crushes – there are railings, spaced so that two people stand between each line.

Not only does this allow for some control over crowd movement, but offers routes to and from exits in a more organised manner, much in the same way as seats currently do. Attached to each of these rails is a seat, so that in order to comply with European games the seats can be folded down, making the section all-seated.

For clubs, there is a clear benefit to introducing safe standing in certain areas of the stadium: revenue increase. The ratio of seats to standing permitted in current ground regulations is about 1:1.8 meaning for areas where there are 1,000 seats, it would be possible to have 1,800 standing fans.

If a club were to convert a 10,000 of their seats to safe standing areas, then that would mean 8,000 extra fans each game. One added benefit of this would be that for those standing tickets, they could be offered at a reduced price but the increase in attendance could still bring the club out with higher revenue, but with the positive response from fans (safe standing is popular, as is the idea of reduced ticket prices). It’s a win on both sides.

One club who should be leading the discussion on trialling safe standing are Chelsea. As things stand the Blues cannot expand Stamford Bridge, and are struggling to find a site on which to build a new ground. This puts a clear limit on match day revenue, unless the club decides to raise ticket prices (which are already high) or charge even more for food and drink.

The alternative is to convert sections of either the Matthew Harding or Shed End stands to safe standing. As things stand, the Matthew Harding has a capacity of 10,884, and is home to many season ticket holders and die hard Chelsea fans.

On the lower section, especially the blocks directly behind the goals everyone stands anyway. Introducing safe standing for around 3,000 of those seats would mean 5,400 fans would be able to attend.

With tickets in those areas costing £47 for Premier League games, that’s an increase in revenue of £112,800. Reduce the prices in the standing sections to £40 and you’re still making £75,000 extra – and that is before the extra amount of food and drink is taken into account. Pro-rated across the 19 home Premier League games, the club could make an extra £1.42m. All from 2,400 extra fans being able to stand. If the same is done on the Shed, then that’s almost £3m extra made over the course of a season, as well as an increase in atmosphere and some good will from the fans.

This is where folks like the Football Supporters Federation (FSF) and Jon Darch at the Safe Standing Roadshow need to make their case to clubs: increased capacity without major works, increased revenue even with reduced ticket costs in standing areas and a significant upturn in good will from fans. Plus, with the improved atmosphere at games the clubs will look much better on TV.

For more information on Safe Standing, check out the FSF and the Safe Standing Roadshow. I also recommend Jon Darch’s piece on standing at Stamford Bridge.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments.