Hop on an aeroplane from any major national airport to the city of Dortmund in Germany- and take a trip to one of the most spectacular footballing venues in all of world football, Signal Iduna Park. This almighty footballing fortress is home to the German Champions Borussia Dortmund, and is home to perhaps the most spectacular and atmostpherric footballing experiences that the western game can offer. The reason? Terracing.
So what does happen when you whack 25,000 drunken German football supporters on to one massive terrace? The answer is simple. A pulsating and thrilling atmosphere. Signal Iduna park holds the biggest freestanding terracing section in the whole of Europe in the grounds South Stand. The “Yellow Wall” as it is affectionately known by home supporters generates a vibe and electricity like no other stadium can really offer anywhere else.
So if the Germans can do it so well, why cant we? The idea of terracing was banned in English footballs top stadiums and replaced with modern all-seater stadiums after tragedies such as the Hillsborough disaster brought into question the safety and security of terracing- and ever since then the terrace has been on the wane- even in lower league grounds. The obvious dogma that the Hillsborough affair will leave on the idea of terracing is there for all to see- and critics can claim that the system is “unsafe” and “leads to violence”. The events in Sheffield on that fateful day were in indeed deeply saddening and tragic but we must separate that from the issue of terracing and look at the undistorted facts.
In a survey done over two seasons between 2008 and 2010 on the rates of violence in all seater stadiums compared to terracing, the Home Office came to the following conclusion:
The rate of arrest per 100,000 supporters was higher at Football League One and Football League Two clubs with all-seated grounds than at those with terraces.
This is an interesting statistic indeed. Furthermore, we only need to take a glance across at our friends the Germans again to see that terracing can work as a perfectly efficient and safe model. In Germany, since 2007 at least 10% of all tickets sold for each game must be standing- no exceptions. The results are clear. Germany have been voted as the league with the most atmospheric stadiums in world football- and on top of this the average attendance in Germany is higher than in any other league at 41,894 (according to soccer net.com). To round it off, the Germans have state of the art stewarding processes employed to ensure crowd safety, a model that is surely not out of the reach of the FA?
The movement for the re-introduction of the terrace is growing. And its hard not to make the case for it. As a younger supporter, obviously my experience of terracing is somewhat limited- having been to games week in week out in all-seater arenas- but despite this most of my best footballing memories have come at games where I am standing or on terraces.
Make no mistake about it, all seater stadiums have their advantages. It is easier to see, especially as a younger child spectating, and for more elderly members of the audience, and it provides a degree of comfort for supporters (or at least as comfortable it can get sitting outside on a freezing Tuesday night in February). But I’m not talking about abolishing seats altogether and bringing back the old days of ground-wide terracing- I am talking about following the German model.
Surely this is the only answer? Sections of terracing not only boost the atmosphere and attendances, but also ensure that the system of seating is retained; it is an all-advantageous compromise that can only be a good thing? Even as a younger supporter, there are not many feelings that tickle right down to my marrow of football nostalgia, like standing on the terrace, and I know that is the same for generations before me, some of whom practically grew up on the terraces.
The re-introduction of terracing in sections of grounds can only be a good thing in my opinion. We must see the light and acknowledge that we must separate issues of tragedies gone by from the truth. Terraces promote unity among fans, increase atmosphere and increase attendance- just look over the continent to see Germany reaping the rewards. Whether the FA will ever diffuse the dogmas on the issue of terracing is debatable, but what there can be no debate about is this.
The advantages of terracing far outstrip that advantages of not having it. So let’s awaken that dormant nostalgic terrace boy inside us and go on and enjoy our saturday afternoons how they should be enjoyed. Bellowing out our songs, along with our brothers on the terrace.