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It’s around four years since I wrote on this subject but, given the debate on the message board following our draw at Manchester United last Saturday, I thought it was time to offer my thoughts again on what continues to be a major issue at English football grounds.

The simple fact is that we play in  a league where all spectators are required to sit but the problem is that many would prefer to stand, do stand, and that in itself causes many problems.

rail-seatsI had an issue on Saturday, not with persistent standing but with a supporter jumping up and down at every possible opportunity and that is something I can’t physically deal with unfortunately. I was sat close to the front of our section of the ground and virtually everyone in front of me was seated. I fully accept that at certain moments of the game you will get people standing, it’s a natural thing to do. It’s when it got as it did on Saturday it became virtually impossible for me to watch the game. Thankfully, it was resolved at half time when we swapped seats.

I’m 64 now and am suffering with arthritis but for years I stood watching Burnley. Having stood on the Bee Hole with my dad and granddad, I broke loose to become a cricket field ender and then, when they shut the best part of the ground to build a new stand, I migrated to the Longside along with many others.

Can I stand? Yes is the answer. I opted for the terracing at Accrington in the League Cup because the seating provided for away fans is dreadful, but I paid for it over the next couple of days. Strangely, it is the only time I’ve stood this season other than the friendly at Ibrox.

Do I want to stand? No is the answer to that one. If I was more able bodied then I’d love to, I really would. I still think it’s the best way to watch football and I can fully understand and appreciate people wanting to stand.

As I wrote at the beginning of this article, spectators in the Premier League are required to sit. That is clearly not happening at any ground now, particularly with away supporters. Sadly, that has meant some Burnley fans I know having had to make the decision not to go any longer. It shouldn’t be like that. I’m sure, if there are no changes, the same will befall myself in the future. I just wonder how far into the future it will be.

For now, I’m prepared to stand and, looking back, did so at a lot of games last season. Sad person that I am, I can remember when I stood and when I sat and I stood at six of the last seven away games last season, Brighton being the exception, that was until Michael Keane scored that late equaliser.

I got angry on Saturday, that I’ll admit, but this wasn’t over someone standing to watch a game at all. It was the jack-in-a-box up and down that got to me and, as I said, it was resolved at half time and then with a handshake at the end. I do understand his frustrations, I really do, but likewise he, and others of the same mind, have to understand mine.

There are solutions. Legislation doesn’t allow standing in the top two divisions, although newly promoted clubs to the Championship do get three years grace if they have standing accommodation, but at some clubs there is a sensible approach and I’ll offer Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday in that respect. At both clubs on our more recent visits, the stewards have asked those who wish to stand to go to the back to allow those who don’t to remain seated. Because we are situated in an upper tier it works perfectly, despite not actually being permitted, but that can only work when it is nothing like a sell out.

The real solution, and I’ve been an advocate for a long time, is to introduce safe standing. I’ve written on the subject before and I have to say I was astonished on the message board when someone posted in response to me: “Why not try to proactively do something about the lack of safe standing?”

I’m not sure how many Burnley supporters have done more. Besides writing on the subject, I’ve worked alongside the FSF on this subject for some considerable time, I’ve dealt with three Members of Parliament and pushed hard with the club to get their support.

I have not discussed it with Burnley’s current MP Julie Cooper but have with the previous three. Peter Pike was, and remains, against a return of standing areas while Kitty Ussher was equally against. Gordon Birtwistle was the only one of the three to offer support and he confirmed to me, after I’d contacted him, that he’d signed an early day motion. Not bad for a Blackburn fan I thought, but at least he understood the situation and felt it worthy of being discussed in Parliament.

I instigated meetings at the club on the subject in 2012 with Lee Hoos. It was following those meetings that he, formally on behalf of the club, said he was in full support of safe standing areas. Very recently I have enjoyed further discussions on the subject with Dave Baldwin and will continue to at every opportunity.

I think there is a growing desire among clubs to push for safe standing. I read an article a couple of weeks ago that suggested any Premier League vote could go 18-1 in favour with 1 abstention. I think we all know that the club against is Liverpool, and we know the reasons. Therefore, the likely abstention is Everton.

We are not talking about a return to old fashioned terracing here but to rail seating that is extensively used in other countries, particularly in Germany (top picture). It’s also arrived in the UK at Celtic (lower picture) with some considerable success. They recently held an open day for other clubs and I can confirm that Burnley did have representatives there.

No one would be more pleased than myself to see standing permitted again at football grounds in the top two divisions of English football. It would immediately allow those to sit who wish to sit and those to stand who wish to stand. And standing would be considerably easier for those who are finding it difficult. Having a rail in front to lean on really does make a big difference.

Safe standing areas would end the arguments that are being witnessed at virtually every away game now. The last thing we should be doing is fighting among ourselves but that’s happening and I was admittedly guilty of that on Saturday. But I will add, if everyone in front of me had been stood I would have had no argument. It is something that I’ve come to accept and I’ll stand in those circumstances and leave the moaning until the following day at home when I’m on my own.

I feel so privileged in a way. For years I had the option to stand, not just at the Turf but at away games up and down the country. Now, my preference is to sit. The sooner we all have the choice again the better it will be.

Until then I’ll continue to fight the cause for the introduction of safe standing at English football grounds. It has to come in. Our younger supporters, sadly in my view, will never have the opportunity to witness standing on old fashioned terracing even if it was considered, by some, to be unsafe.

The least safe I ever found it was back in 1990. I’d retired to the Bob Lord by then because of my dad’s illness but opted to stand for an FA Cup tie against Stoke. I’d forgotten all about the surge when we scored and I suddenly found myself pushed hard against a barrier exactly where it hurts most. I recovered and we won 2-0.

Standing areas when, and it surely has to be when and not if, will be safe in the future. Football grounds will be better for it as supporters get their wish to sit or stand. Until then, my wish is that we all respect each other and end the arguments. After all, we are all there to support our team.

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