The other day, whilst listening to the great Adrian Durham on TalkSport I became slightly irritated.
To be fair, TalkSport tends to do that to me these days which is one of the main reasons why I listen to it so infrequently. Indeed,Durhamis one of only three broadcasters on the station whose opinion I actually put some value in
However, I digress. What caused my irritation was a woman who came on to take part in a debate on the issue of safe standing.
Now I have no firm opinions on this matter either way although I do think that the imposition of designated seating has had a catastrophic effect on the atmosphere at games and anything which would kick that into touch is alright by me.
Anyway, the source of my irritation was a spokesperson (sic) for the Justice for the 96 campaign who came on and gave an impassioned plea which revolved around the idea that a return to any kind of terracing would be a huge slap in the face not only to the memory of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster but to those who continue to fight for justice.
Now as many people will know, I’ve written a lot about Hillsborough over the years and to say that my opinions have not always been universally praised would be something of an understatement. But whilst I have every sympathy for the families of all of the victims, the more I listened to her the more irritated I became. Primarily because she was talking complete and utter bollocks.
Every football fan knows that whatever the causes of the Hillsborough tragedy, it changed football forever and in all kinds of ways. Yet it is a fact that football is an evolutionary entity and to claim that a return to terracing would mean that 96 people had died for nothing is, as far as I am concerned, a genuine insult to their memory.
Because I’ve stood on terraces which were so steep that climbing up them almost required crampons and others which were so packed you could barely breath let alone fight. I’ve stood and watched games through steel bars, been crushed against fences and been treated like shit by policemen simply because I’ve had the temerity to visit their town to follow my team (irony alert I know!). Yet because of Hillsborough, none of those things exist any more.
But just as importantly, the simple fact of the matter is that if people want to stand at games (as they still do in the lower leagues and in parts of Europe) then they are going to, seats or no seats and laws or no laws -and let’s not forget, the 96 who died were, in the main, usually to be found standing on The Kop at Anfield rather than sitting in the stands.
So if we are now able to provide an environment in which the modern day football fan can stand both safely and legally, then we should do it.
For if Hillsborough is going to provide the game with a genuine legacy, safer standing should surely be it.