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The need for Safe Standing at Old Trafford

Long gone are the days when groups of adolescents from Mancunian suburbs such as Gorton, Longsight, and Wythenshawe, etc would travel in their numbers to Old Trafford. This is the Old Trafford of the past, filled with noise and imagery of terraces covered in red, white and black. Perhaps the 1970s and the 1980s was Old Trafford’s peak time for atmosphere as people stood in solidarity, singing and chanting about United.

However, today, like most Major football stadiums, Old Trafford has become a space of commercialism and cronyism due to the removal of standing in 1989. The 1989 Football Spectators Act forced football grounds in England to become all-seated venues. This came after Hillsborough and various other trouble involving hooliganism.

As football approached the 21st Century, the working-class terraces were no longer in existence in the Premier League. The bigger United got meant the global appeal the club had grown bigger also. This drew in people who would not usually attend football matches to Old Trafford. By no fault of their own, these people were culturally unaware of what happened years previous in football stands such as singing, chanting and swearing.

This has created an environment that alienates the average working-class Manchester United fan that travels home and away to watch United. Additionally, this has also had a disastrous impact on the atmosphere at Old Trafford.

An obvious solution to save Old Trafford’s atmosphere would be the introduction of safe standing. An area where people could stand and chant just like they did in the 70s and 80s but this time the terrace would be monitored safely. Most recently a petition in favour of safe-standing in the Premier League and Championship has reached 100,000 signatures meaning the concept must be debated in the House of Commons. Labour has also backed the campaign for safe standing.

Celtic have a 2,900-capacity safe-standing section at Parkhead that has a massive impact on the Stadiums wonderful atmosphere. Many die-hard United fans would feel that the introduction of a safe standing section at Old Trafford would benefit the atmosphere greatly. Chief executive of the Manchester United Supporters Trust (MUST) Duncan Drasdo recently spoke out on the topic. He said:

“We believe this is a crucial step towards regaining the atmosphere which we’ve seen decline since stadia went all seater. MUST has played a key role in the campaign right from the beginning so it is something we particularly welcome having worked for so long to see standing return to our stadia.”

There have been many cases at Old Trafford where a fan may stand up in his seat and start chanting only to be told by stewards and even fellow fans around him to shut up and sit down. It’s a far cry from when Old Trafford’s atmosphere was electric on match day. A safe standing section would improve atmosphere and lower ticket prices for fans.

It would also provide an outlet for fans who want to sing, chant and stand to be allowed to do so freely without any interruption. At the same time, it would create sections in the stadium for people who want to sit down and watch the match without anyone standing up in front of them.

Written by Shane Purcell

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