Aston Villa are planning to bring back an experimental standing area at Villa Park, having already entered into talks with the Premier League about the possibility of introducing a new style of terracing to one corner of the Holte End.
It’s a famous, revolutionary move. Other clubs will inevitably follow. But any images of crush barriers, surges, bouncing and singing were carefully swept away by chief executive Paul Faulkner when he gave details of the ‘test area’ to the Villa Supporters Consultation Group at the weekend.
The so-called ‘rail seats’ under consideration are currently in use in stadiums across Europe, flipping up for all-seater matches or stowing away to allow standing.
The plan was given an enthusiastic thumbs-up by all of the fans at the meeting. And so begins the long process of jumping through hoops to get the law changed, allowing English clubs to follow their Scottish Premier League counterparts, who were last month given permission to offer safe-standing areas. No changes are envisaged before the 2013-14 season, at the earliest.
The motivation behind the experiment is a reduction of the current high admission prices, without affecting overall revenue. As the Birmingham Mail put it, “Villa bosses hope the intended project would boost the atmosphere at the stadium and tempt back some stay-away supporters.”
Now a Premier League club has officially noted the alienation of many former regular fans, the forthcoming standing debate looks certain to extend to the allied problems of admission prices, player wages, the player-fan divide, corporate fans, big-match atmosphere and good old Health & Safety.