FRI, 2:30PM ET
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FRI, 2:30PM ET
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SAT, 10AM ET
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SAT, 12:30PM ET
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Terraces Vanishing From English Football Grounds: Video

Many of us know that standing terraces are disappearing from English football grounds. Whether it’s new all-seater stands being built, or clubs moving to new grounds, terraces are becoming a thing of the past in England. To illustrate how the terraces are vanishing, watch the above video that begins in 1955 when the ‘new’ Roots Hall was built by Southend. And then continues showing how there were no more new stadiums for 33 years.

The past 20 years have seen a rampant change with nearly a third of all clubs in the English 92-club system relocating.

According to the video creators, “The most dramatic shift away from terracing occurred in 1994, which was the deadline set by the FA for all clubs in the top two divisions to become all-seater. This ruling was a reaction to the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, in which 96 fans were crushed to death in a standing area. There has been much debate about this disaster and its aftermath, but it widely accepted that poor crowd management was to blame rather than standing per se. Indeed, crushes have occurred in poorly managed all-seater grounds, while huge standing areas continue to be used safely to this day in countries like Germany.”

As a footnote, Cardiff this season moved into a brand-new all-seater stadium.

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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8 Responses to Terraces Vanishing From English Football Grounds: Video

  1. Kyle says:

    You are right about crowd management and not standing being the issue. Overall the problem was how fans in the 1970s and 1980s were treated. The massive fences were an issue. In Nick Hornby’s book Fever Pitch he discusses an incident when he was at Highbury in the early 80s of a match against West Ham and if fences had been there they wouldn’t have been able to escape the crush. In fact the absence of security fences at Highbury is why Hillsbrough and not Highbury was selected in 1980s to stage FA Cup semi finals matches. As far as crowd management goes I remember hearing a story about England’s crucial qualifier in Italy in 97 and how the police started randomly hitting fans with batons and some people being worried about getting crushed during this in corridors leading out into the stadium. Further Nick Hornby talks about a match at Highbury again in 1980 where there was a large crush outside the North Bank end and not being able to breath properly because of the crush. He also stated that during this there were mounted police near by but they seemed unconcerned. And then talks about getting in and seeing many people sitting down on the terraces trying to regain their breath. This feeds into a point about how authorities the FA, club owners, and the government viewed the fans. I remember reading somewhere I can’t be certain which book it was many years ago about an old match program note from a pre-war FA Cup semi final which encouraged people to stand as close together as possible so as many people as possible could get in. Then as far as club owners go Ken Bates the now Leeds chairman but the Chairman/owner of Chelsea from 1982-2003 had the fences at Stamford Bridge electrified to control crowds. The Greater London council never let him use them but this shows how clubs viewed there fans in general that they would treat there own “customers” in such a manner. Then there is the government/police, first there was the events at Hillsbrough, one problem was the FA did not want to delay the kick off 30 minutes so the police could better deal with the situation. Then when it got really bad they were slow to let people out of the pens because they thought it was the usual trouble and not a public health/safety problem. Further they formed a line across the center of the pitch because they thought that the Liverpool fans would try to get at the Forest fans instead of offering assistance to the badly injured. (I should point out I am not an anti-police person, my father is a police officer, the problem was the mind set and approach they were geared toward trouble not the fact that they would have to deal with a casualty problem.) Then in Pete Davies book about the 1990 World Cup All Played Out, which was re-released under the title One Night in Turin and made into a movie with the same name, talks about the British Government’s view of football fans. (I should say the book is excellent as it captures a very important stage in English football this was the five years after Heysel, the fire at Valley Parade in Bradford and English clubs being kicked out of Europe; the year after Hillsbrough: Sky had just come on line the previous February and the Premier League was two years away.) The then sports minister went around basically telling the local police the England fans were nothing but thugs and criminals which lead to the Italian police being heavy handed and many confrontation with fans that didn’t have to turn as ugly as they did.

    After Hillsbrough the Taylor report said a few interesting things, it laid the blame squarely at the feet at football authorities for the crumbling stadiums. He said he wanted to drag football not into the twenty first century but into the twentieth century. He also recommend that the top two divisions go all seater by 1994 and he recommended that prices for ticket of six pounds which would be about 11 today. The new rules had an interesting effect on Wimbledon F.C. In 1991 they left their Plough Lane ground to share with Crystal Palace this was three years before they had to go all seater. They could have moved to Fulham which was closer and they could have redeveloped or built a new ground with in Merton. They board at first tried to move the club to Dublin which was blocked, the eventually to Milton Keynes which was approved. There was a split where the majority of fans formed a new club AFC Wimbledon, which is close to recreating their 1977 feat of going from the bottom of non league football to the football league and the club known as MK Dons which was owned by the original owners. One other side note is their move from Selhurst Park to the National Hockey stadium was held up for months beacuse they had to get permission to use the stadium Football Licensing Authority, which was set up in 1989, which oversees safety requirements which implements many of the safety recommendations that were in the Taylor Report,

  2. soonerscotty says:

    Good Riddance!

    Remember Hillsborough! Remember the 96!

    Justice for the 96!

    YNWA!

  3. Nick says:

    Question on crowd control: I’ve only read a little about this, and I’m an American who’s never seen a soccer game outside the US, but it seems to me that the practice at all levels of English football back in the days of the terraces was just to sell lots more tickets for big matches, and figure that people would just crowd closer together on the terraces. That’s how you got those insane attendance figures back in the day.

    My guess is that this practice is intrinsically really, really dangerous — it seems to me that it would make effective crowd control basically impossible. Did the FA figure that the only way to stop teams from selling 5 or 10 thousand extra tickets for a big match would be to mandate all-seaters, which create a physical limit to a park’s attendance? Is this a kind of “Odysseus lashing himself to the mast” situation, where the FA simply wouldn’t trust their own teams with the kind of attendance flexibility that you get with terraces?

    • Kyle says:

      I can’t be certain when it started but it might have been but by 1989 there were limits as to how many standing area ticket could be sold. I am not sure if it was the local council or a national body. As far as selling more tickets I refer you to the comment I made above. I would point out that the old Highfield Road ground that Coventry City played at was I believe the first English ground to go all seater in the early 1980s and Ibrox went all seater in the 1970s and before the redeveloped Hampden Park in Glasgow it used to seat 150,000. Everton got a crowd of 78,299 in 1948 and now with Gwladys Street End in particular gone all seater their stated capacity is down to just over 40,000. The standing areas have “crush barriers” on them so it was/is not like just standing on a hill and it was compulsory for the fences to be taken down after 1989. In Germany they have what is called safe standing were there are even more barriers and these areas can be converted for seating for European matches where the have a standing area for I believe 20,000 and their capacity goes down about 6,000 for European matches. I should point out overall that it was the increase in prices and more stringent banning orders that came along at the start of the 90s and no necessarily all seated stadiums that changed things.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Nick, the changes from terraces to all-seater stadiums resulted from the Taylor Report that was conducted after the Hillsborough Disaster. Clubs were forced, rightfully so at the time, to change to all-seaters to make the stadiums safer.

      Prior to that, clubs would squeeze as many patrons in as possible. For every seat, a club could fit in two people if they were standing. The terraces were unsafe at times. But recent developments, especially in Germany, have launched safe standing initiatives where the issue of safety concerns has been removed.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Nick says:

        Thanks for the response, Gaffer. I’ve read about the Taylor report and the Hillsborough disaster (though I’ve never read the Report itself). I know the report recommended mandating all-seater stadiums, and the FA complied.

        I guess what I’m asking is, what justification did the Taylor report give? Was it a) standing in terraces is uniquely dangerous for some reason (easier for spectators to crowd together and create a mob); b) terraces allow for outrageously crowded parks, and the clubs can’t be trusted to sell only 40,000 tickets to a terraced ground if they know they can sell 60,000 for a given game, so no more terraces for you; c) a kind of “no graffiti or broken windows” theory, whereby terraces were associated with a kind of attitude about the experience of attending a football match (tons of drinking, pissing where you stand, excessive interaction among supporters and between groups of supporters, rushing the pitch), and getting rid of terraces would lead to more expensive tickets, and a more genteel/bourgeois football spectator culture; d) Something else?

  4. Chaz says:

    Terraces are cool
    …a football/soccer match is obviously, in real time, always about 95 minute of action, hence, standing for the duration is certainly feasible, and, it seems, FUN
    …American pro football pushes 3 hours…baseball averages 2:47
    …So we needs seats…

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