Safe standing comes to Scottish football. Standing was a part of our game for over a century (and still is in the semi-professional divisions), but the Taylor Report changed the game fundamentally, as grounds were made all-seater in the 1990s. This phenomenon was not restricted to the UK, Uefa (to some extent) enforced the trend on the rest of the Continent.
Then things changed in Germany. New stadiums had railed seating, which allowed spectators to stand during games. This allowed more people to fit into the same space. The grounds still had to be converted to conventional seating for Uefa games, but the phenomenon of safe standing proved, well, safe.
In fact, it is a lot safer than the de facto situation in many UK grounds, where away fans stand in areas which are clearly unsafe for standing crowds.
I understand why Celtic have situated the safe standing area where they have lower-tier corner of North and Lisbon Lions stands, but for me it should be North Stand upper. If you’re going to have a standing section, don’t just site it where one has emerged organically, put it where it best suits the stadium, can have most impact on atmosphere and has room to grow. Make no mistake, demand will outstrip supply for the standing area, and soon enough we’ll be wondering how we grow it.
The stadium can be further-portioned off. At the moment the family area is squashed between the new standing area and away fans – this section also has nowhere to grow. If you want more families, ensure each passing decade the stadium has more targeted family areas.
There should also be greater price differentiation for tickets. The pack-em-in reality of standing areas fits the profile of a cheaper ticket, which fits the reality of the North Stand upper’s isolation from amenities like lounges. Fill the North upper full of cheap, standing tickets, extend facilities like lounges – and charge accordingly, or family facilities, to lower tiers.
You want to stand in a busy area, move about and keep warm – pay less. You want to keep warm in a lounge – pay more. You want to take penalties against Ms Hoopy, go to the family area. Just bring a child, please.
30 years from now, few will want to watch football in a stadium like Celtic Park. This happened to football in the 70s and 80s. It became stuck in the infrastructure of what was then regarded by many as a decrepit bygone era. Many football fans just stopped going. I can see history repeating itself.
Cater for the future or your local shopping mall/multiplex will. In future, everyone will want access to a warm lounge before and after the game, and at halftime. Try planning a leisure activity in northern Europe for the 21st century and come up with any other conclusion.
Ticket machines should be at the perimeter of the stadium footprint. Once inside, you should have fan zones with bars, restaurants, cafes, play areas, shops – mostly undercover. You should never be more than 5 minutes away from being able to spend money. Or spend a penny – with paper towels available all afternoon.
I’m usually in the environs of Celtic Park close to 3 hours on a match day. The opportunities for engagement are enormous, but we’re miles away for thousands of us in the ‘reasonably priced’ seats.
None of this is meant as a criticism. We have a magnificent 20th century stadium, I was one of thousands who paid to build it. All of the above wish-list would cost millions we just don’t have – this is the reality. But we need to have a vision of what our future requirement looks like.
I still miss the old Celtic Park, the new stadium cannot touch if for atmosphere, but what we expect when we go to the football is different now, and will be different again in the future. The first thing I’d do if we broke free of Scottish football is call in the bulldozers and start again.
Season ticket prices remain same as last season, confounding conspiracy theorists four-year fantasy. This caused brief spates of cognitive dissonance before a fresh wave of conspiracies washed the pain away.