Please remain seated: Why we should bring back terracing

by Josh Bland

Dortmund TerraceHop 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.

7 Responses

  1. James says:

    I totally agree with all that has been written but you have missed a critical argument. I currently live in the Netherlands but have been to see Fortuna Dusseldorf many times. An important part of German terracing is the fact that there are metal safety bars between rows and each supporter is designated a ‘seat space’ in which to stand in. In some grounds the bars even have flip-down seats so a fan can sit if they need a rest, but the space is nominally a standing spot. I have to say, the atmosphere really is incredible, and you are right to suggest it is the terracing that adds to this.

    Good article.

  2. Kjm says:

    I was wondering how a sports writer could be so insensitive and ill-informed as to write the garbage above that I’ve just wasted 5 minutes reading…and then I saw it…”A 16 year old”.
    You’ve got a lot of growing up to do young fella!!
    Take yourself off to Liverpool or Turin and put your case to the locals. You’ll be chased out of both cities. Why would you EVER risk a reoccurrence of such tragedies?!
    Another major issue with your proposal is the difference in the social classes of Germany, and for example the UK. Simply put, there is a much larger “element of trouble” attending football in the UK… Terracing would inevitably lead to trouble amongst fans and not necessarily opposing fans.
    Besides, The Kop on a CL European night (fond memories) proves that you can have an electric, intoxicating atmosphere without terracing.

  3. Josh Bland Josh Bland says:

    A Liverpool fan I presume? Of course, I don’t dispute that just because there is no terracing you can’t have a fantastic atmosphere- but that said, I just believe terracing would aid.
    Firstly, I dont see how my age should affect my knowledge of the game?
    Secondly, we need to be intelligent enough to separate terracing from the tragic events at hillsborough. That was as a result of appalling police management, not the terraces. What’s more, trouble on the terraces what not due to the terraces, but the footballing culture of the supporters in those days. It was a different world-
    Iike I say, research the German or Dutch model and hopefully that will sway you.

  4. EMCG says:

    Ridiculous. What does this lad being 16 have to do with the piece. In fact I think this is an incredibly well written, researched and thought out bit of writing far beyond half the crap you read in the papers these days.

    To call his argument “garbage” and then to continue on your rant without providing any kind of relevant argument to disprove this bit of writing frankly shows how ignorant and immature you are my friend.

    To Josh Bland nice writing mate keep up the excellent work.

    1. Josh Bland Josh Bland says:

      Thankyou very much mate, much appreciated.

  5. NFB says:

    People died. We should not risk it again, no matter how small the risk may be. Live with a lower volume, sing in a seat and understand how potentially insulting it is to keep insisting we forget Hillsborough and Turin happened.

  6. The atmosphere at most Football grounds these days is dire !

    Yes , there were deaths at Hillsborough and Heysel etc – there are deaths on the roads , ships , aeroplanes and we stlll USE those carrying people !!

    We need to move on from Hillsborough.

    Bring in “German ” style terracing !

    We do not want our stadiums to become the “Theatre of Silence” .

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