TERRACES: WHERE I STAND
Mickey Blue Eyes
".......The tom-tom beat of latter day tribalism......"
Whenever you think an issue has been finally settled in human affairs you find you are wrong. In football, take the matter of standing terraces. In recent months there have been reports of an experimental return to "safe-standing" terraces in English and Scottish football. You would have thought this proposal moronic, irresponsible and indecent even by footy standards, especially with a football history spattered with recurring tragedy and outright Nazism aided mostly (but not only) by standing accommodation.
So I'll make my position absolutely clear: if standing terraces ever return en masse to English football stadia I will cease supporting the professional game, walk away, and never look back. It would be the final straw. It would be as though the British game has learned nothing or has decided to ignore terrible lessons of the past. The fact is there can be no such thing as "safe standing." It is anathema to anybody with a sense of human decency. Have we not got enough problems with the current football financial model?
Either way, a return to the aberration, no matter how diluted, would be a sign that British culture has given up the football geist in favour of repeat organised mass brutality. And make no mistake, by the time standing terraces reached a nadir in the 1980s the worst had become little more than a gathering place for racist thugs and crazy chauvinists hiding in a crowd; fences and pens weren't in place for their aesthetic values. They were there because over the years we fans allowed them to happen. We tolerated the kind of stadia conditions that had only one logical conclusion. We allowed a minority of gang cowards to become the main face of the sport. We must never make the same mistake.
The only reason this sick nonsense is even being considered is because some benighted individuals continue to rant on about "passion" and "atmosphere." According to them, both elements are missing in modern all-seater stadia. It's bollocks, of course, and it should be dismissed accordingly. How easily these morons forget the horrors of the past!
What is actually missing is the worst manifestation of chauvinist goonery. And who in their right mind wants to see that return? In fact most of it is the beery memory of inadequate middle aged and old men trying to recapture their lost youth, and some of it equally inadequate youth looking for a gang to join. In Merseyside's case it will be because such people - a tiny minority - can only recall our city's last great football era, while conveniently ignoring the nation-wide mayhem of that time. For that kind of mentality, avoidable disasters like Hillsborough didn't happen, nor did Bradford, nor did Heysel, nor did Ibrox, nor did Burnden Park......nor did any of the separate organised brutality that masqueraded as "passion."
Needless to say when it came to the crunch those who hated the game used thuggery to disguise Establishment guilt of the real causes of tragedies such as Hillsborough. Innocent victims were easier to blame. Hillsborough, nothing to do with hooliganism, could never happen with contemporary all seater stadia and safer crowd direction. Subsequent neocon lying propaganda could never have succeeded at the time without a general perception that football crowds were inherently nothing more than tribal thugs. And the Leveson Inquiry into press "misbehaviour" continues to expose how easy it is for just a few men and women to manufacture such propaganda.
The argument will be that modern design will reduce physical threat. But that misses the point by a country kilometre. Which, in case you missed it, is to make the spectator as safe as possible in good conditions. The accompanying photograph illustrates a German system for "safe" standing: note the inclusion of seats in an upright position.
It begs obvious questions. Why include seats in a standing area? What is the point, except to create a false impression of "safety"? Even if "safe" (which it isn't) it does nothing to stop the reintroduction of an unhealthy and dangerous, detestable herd mentality. However designed, it won't change the worst of human nature. It will only emphasise it. And that's why we shouldn't countenance its return.