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The potential of standing areas returning to football grounds

Comfy seats. A reserved space. Ample leg room. Sitting at football matches is want fans want, isn't it?

Well, for quite a while now the answer to that question has been a unequivocal and resounding 'no'.

The case has been and continues to be made that fans of clubs in the top two tiers, want the option to stand in a designated area away from the seated sections.

At present, many fans have their view restricted by people who stand in seated areas for the duration of a match, spoiling the event.

Now, this writer is one of those said people.

It is impossible not to jump off your seat when your team advances into the final third or has an effort on goal.

Persistent standing in a seated area can also potentially harm the health of others, in particular the young and elderly.

Match stewards try their best to calm the supporters and point out that it's an all-seater stadium but most of the time their pleas fall on deaf ears.

Never forget

This is not an attempt to rave about the rough and tough nature of terracing during the 1970s and 80s.

The disasters that occurred can never be forgotten and we should be thankful that we have a safe and secure environment in which to watch our football.

We should also be thankful that football is now a more open-minded game, where more women and children watch than ever before.

However, that doesn't mean that some form of standing cannot be safely introduced into British football.

Currently, the Championship and Premier League do not allow standing sections within the stadium of their member clubs.

Clubs below the top two tiers however are permitted to do so.

So, are the football authorities effectively saying that the quality of football on the pitch determines whether it is safe to stand?

It's a nonsense and one top league abroad has proved this.

The German model

In Germany, the Bundesliga has thrived on passionate and atmospheric grounds, which can partially be attributed to the safe standing areas implemented.

The league uses rail seating which is a form of standing where the rails have flip up seats.

The seats are locked in place for Bundesliga matches so fans can stand but are then unlocked for Champions League matches.

A ticket for standing also provides the fan with a row and position, maintaining the ability to locate someone in the stadium.

The Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, which was used in the 2006 World Cup, features safe standing for domestic league fixtures, proving that rail seats can be easily converted.

The idea is slowly catching on here.

Clubs give backing

In August, Peterborough United urged the authorities to look into rail seating and offered it's London Road ground for use as an experiment for the seats.

Speaking at the time, their chief executive Bob Symns told BBC Sport: "I hope we can persuade the powers that be to look seriously at the rail seat option."

Derby County also backed the suggestion and manager Nigel Clough said: "Having seen a demonstration of rail seats, we believe that the concept has merit and could provide us with a safe and well-managed means of doing so.

"We therefore request that the relevant authorities take a close look at the rail seat system."

To top that, Aston Villa announced in January that they were looking into plans to introduce a standing section at Villa Park.

So, the support is there.

The hope for fans across the country will be that the decision makers take notice and finally give something back to the customers they too often take for granted.

By Gary Peters

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