The Hillsborough tragedy, where 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death in 1989 and a thousand people were injured, marked a before and after in the way football was enjoyed in the English stands, but also in those of the rest of Europe. The countries tightened access controls, the fields conditioned their capacities to safer regulations and the UEFA, Like many governments, they ended up prohibiting fans from watching matches standing up, a custom with which a sport with strong popular roots was born. More than two decades after the decision that changed the appearance of the stadiums, UEFA has announced that from next season it will launch an experimental program in the matches of its competitions so that fans can cheer while standing without being penalized .
The authorization of the presiding body Alexander Ceferin It comes after the authorities of countries such as Germany, Austria or France have partially lifted the veto on standing stands in recent years. Also in England since the beginning of 2022, largely due to pressure from the Liverpool fans following the official confirmation of the manipulation of the police reports in which the ‘reds’ fans were blamed for the Hillsborough tragedy. Subsequent investigations concluded, however, that the organizers and those in charge of security were to blame. The excess capacity in that match against Nottingham Forest was lethal.
But this return to the ‘old stands’ will not be complete, as UEFA recently explained in a statement. Given the experimental nature of this programme, it will be limited, at least in its first season, to clubs that are part of the top five associations in the UEFA ranking (England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France) in which the standing locations are already authorized and apply nationwide. Therefore, the English, German and French fans will benefit, but not the Spanish or Italian ones.
The demand for a return to that more ‘genuine’ football has brought together numerous fan associations across Europe. One of them is the Federation of Shareholders and Partners of Spanish Football (Fasfe), which shows ABC its satisfaction after UEFA’s decision. “Although in a first phase it will not affect Spain, it is a great victory. It is an advance given the evidence found in the last decade in several European countries that standing bleachers are safe. Mandating all-seater stadiums in European competitions was an outdated reminder of decades-old ideas about safety.”
The finals, excluded
UEFA will not only geographically limit standing stands. As their competitions progress, they will disappear again. “The program will take place during the group stage and the knockout stages up to the semi-finals of the 2022-23 UEFA men’s club competitions. The finals are excluded », he reported in his statement. At the end of the season, and based on the reports presented by the experts in charge, the highest body in European football will evaluate the conclusions and present the results to its Executive Committee, which will decide on the continuation and possible extension of the program to continue extending the return to the stands. His presence increases the level of decibels and animation in the stadiums, for which numerous clubs throughout Europe have been calling for his recovery.
National legislation is blunt on this matter. The Sports Act 1990, as well as a Royal Decree of 2007, establish that the stands of the stadiums must have seats and be numbered in the professional categories. Despite this, every weekend, especially in the backgrounds, many fans watch the games standing up. «What is dangerous today is what happens in practically all the professional category stadiums in our country, that thousands of fans follow the matches standing on seats. This causes numerous injuries each season, in addition to inconvenience to the part of the fans who, in those sections, want to watch the games sitting down, “they warn from Fasfe.
«The form of safe standing stands, known as ‘rail seating’it would be legal today in all Spanish stadiums, the fact that San Mamés and El Sadar already have them without problem attest to this, ”they affirm from this association.