It’s time to take a stand – return of safe-standing in the Premier League is a risk worth taking
22nd October 2021

BRINGING back safe standing at top-level football is a risk — but one that is just about worth taking.

I only hope the trust we must have towards supporters is not betrayed by the few who are unable to control their anger and lust for alcohol, drugs, racism and pure hatred.

West Ham are among Premier League clubs who have already catered for spectators who prefer standing.

Our stadium has 4,105 safe-standing places in an upper tier at the London Stadium in preparation for the starting date later this season.

The general nervousness was emphasised this week when a senior policeman drew attention to the thuggery, violence and lawlessness among ticketless fans who fought past stewards, police and bystanders to grab seats at the Euros final at Wembley.

Uefa chiefs responded this week by ordering that the next England match is held behind closed doors, suspending a second shutout in case of further misbehaviour.

But the ramifications are greater than this.

The shameful behaviour at the final between England and Italy is already causing doubts as to whether the UK, along with Ireland, should bid to host the 2030 World Cup.


Which would be such a great shame, because we would have been in with a real chance of winning.

Years of hooliganism in and around our stadiums is a blight on the nation’s good name.

And there has been a history of yobbish behaviour.

Our louts have been responsible for appalling violence and drunkenness, bringing fear to every foreign city where our World Cup matches have been played.

But this was rife back in the 1970s and 1980s — and most of the hooligans who caused trouble in the summer were probably not even born at the time.

Whether it is a coincidence or not, the all-seater stadiums — brought about after recommendations in the Taylor Report on Hillsborough — have attracted more families, quelling hooliganism.

State-of-the-art CCTV was brought in to identify troublemakers who abuse, threaten and throw missiles.

And when they are identified, they are prosecuted and banned.

It a shame that a mindless few have spoiled it for supporters who behave impeccably.

They just love the atmos­phere all the pro-standers believe is enhanced when fans are packed, shoulder-to-shoulder, upright and loud and excited.

There had been hope among clubs that the urge to drink and disrupt was dying.
Wembley made many of us think again . . . 

But we still are enthusiastic for the best that safe standing can bring — the big noise, the mass humour and camaraderie, too.

Football moves fast in every way and so much has gone (wooden terraces, clog-like boots, balls that weigh the same as a sack of wet sand) . . . 

And I doubt standing in our stadiums will ever be a majority again.

Still, it’s coming back as a kind of progressive retro — going backwards to go forwards.

An experiment at least worth taking.

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