In a piece originally published on the EFL website, Bees fan and BIAS member, Gemma Teale outlines why the Stand Up for Choice campaign is something worth fighting for.
“It’s part of the Club, and has been ever since I remember – It is how I choose to watch football and it is something that is now associated with Griffin Park and Brentford Football Club.”
For many of supporters up and down the country, it is simply a tradition on a matchday – to stand on a terrace to cheer on your team. Currently 22 EFL Clubs have licensed standing areas already installed, with Shrewsbury Town recently becoming the first Club in England to install licensed rail seating.
In the case of Sky Bet Championship side Brentford, the Ealing Road Terrace offers standing accommodation, as does the lower level of the Brook Road Stand – however, if not for being given a special dispensation due to the building of a new stadium, the Bees would have been forced to install seats across all areas of the ground at the start of the 2017/18 season.
This is due to a legislation stating teams in the top two divisions of English football must have all-seater stadiums, with promoted Clubs given a three-year timeframe to meet these guidelines.
Gemma Teale, member of the Brentford Independent Association of Supporters (BIAS), is a season ticket holder and has been a Brentford supporter since 1994. To her, and many supporters of the Club, standing areas at Brentford are engraved into the spirit and history of the Football Club.
“From a personal point of view I have been standing at Griffin Park since 1994, it is the way I watch football, when I watch Brentford I always have done. To me I can’t stand sitting down, but I also know of many supporters who prefer the opposite,” she explained.
“Everyone enjoys the game their way – I’ve had friends who swap in-between the two, but the choice particularly is really important. We are used to having the choice at Brentford, and it is something we really notice when we go to away games and potential issues arise because the rules differ depending on the teams involved.”
The EFL and FSF’s ‘Stand up for Choice’ campaign is targeting a change in the restrictions imposed on EFL Clubs who wish to introduce standing areas.
The EFL was given a mandate from its Clubs to work on this matter in 2014 and is in active dialogue with supporter groups, safety authorities and senior Government Ministers in an effort to achieve a review of existing legislation so that Clubs have a choice on the matter and fans get the match day experience they want - whether that be seated or standing.
“It is vitally important that the EFL are backing the need for change. Firstly it shows they’re listening to supporters, we say it a lot that football without fans is nothing, and it is true. There is still a stigma around standing areas and sometimes we need the authorities to support our opinions.
“It is something that needs changing – supporters should be entitled to a choice, and it seems very odd that footballing ability on the pitch can affect standing protocols in the stands. It shouldn’t matter the division, the level of football doesn’t determine how safe a stadium is.”
Teale also believes that whilst procedures have to be met and deliberation on change is understandable up to a point, the simple point for supporters across the country is that standing areas can generate a better, and more enjoyable, matchday experience – whilst being safe to use.
She added: “I think standing provides a better matchday experience – It can sometimes be associated incorrectly with trouble occurring at fixtures, but I stand with people of all ages, different genders and religions.
“The reason a standing area gives such vibrancy to a game is because you can move about and speak to whoever you want in that specific area and that creates more energy. If you stand up to do anything it is more energetic and that is no different at a football game.”