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SAFE STANDING:
The German Stadia Report

P2120009.jpg (79099 bytes)

English Fans' Fact Finding Mission to Germany, February 2001
By
SAFE: The Campaign for Safe Standing Areas

Introduction

S.A.F.E. is the campaign to allow the introduction of limited safe standing areas in English football grounds. Originally begun as a campaign for safe standing in Manchester City's new ground, Eastlands, S.A.F.E. is now the umbrella campaign for safe standing areas to be allowed in all English grounds, should the clubs wish it.

S.A.F.E. does not support a 'return to terraces' but the introduction of small, limited sections of standing, designed to rigorous safety specifications and criteria.

S.A.F.E. believes that, given improvements in stadium technology and practice, football supporters should be allowed the choice of whether to stand or to sit.

S.A.F.E. also believes that allowing limited safe standing areas would help alleviate problems resulting from supporters currently standing in seating areas as well as allowing clubs to expand ground capacities and reduce prices in some areas, with no loss of income. This has been backed up by the fact finding mission to Germany.

There has been considerable publicity in the media over the last 6 months about the flexible standing areas which can be converted to temporary seating at many new and rebuilt grounds in Germany. However, little detail was known of these initiatives, nor whether they would be appropriate and feasible in England.

With the co-operation of Stuart Dykes, a worker with the Schalke04 Fan Initiative, SAFE organised for a group of three English supporters to travel to Germany on a fact finding mission in February 2001. Between Monday 12th and Thursday 16th February, a delegation from S.A.F.E. travelled to Germany on a fact-finding mission. The objective of the visit was to gather as much information and detail of standing areas currently in use for domestic games throughout the Bundesliga, to use as evidence to support the campaign for the implementation of safe standing areas at British football grounds.

The trip was undertaken by the following individuals, representing fans' organisations as listed:

  • Stuart Dykes: Schalke Fan Initiative
  • Phill Gatenby: S.A.F.E.
  • Mark Longden: Independent Manchester United Supporters Association (IMUSA)
  • Kevin Miles: Independent Newcastle United Supporters Association (INUSA)

Stuart Dykes was able to arrange visits to stadiums and meetings with officials from the following German clubs:

  • Schalke 04
  • SV Hamburg
  • Werder Bremen

The fans also met with fans' representatives from St Pauli FC and were given full access to information, club personnel and to the stadia themselves.

There now follows a detailed account of each different standing area in use and issues around the conversion of standing areas into seated areas.

The trip was welcomed by Sports Minister Kate Hoey and a copy of this report will be sent to her, as well as:

  • Tony Blair, Prime Minister
  • Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
  • The Football Licensing Authority
  • The Football Association
  • The FA Premier League
  • The Football League
  • The Professional Footballers Association
  • The National Federation of Football Supporters Clubs
  • The Football Supporters Association

1. FC Schalke 04

Stadium: AufSchalke Arena

New/Rebuild: The AufSchalke Arena is a brand new stadium, built next door to the current Parkstadion. Schalke's stadium is regarded as one of the most hi-tech and forward looking in the world, with a retractable roof and a retractable pitch, which slides out of one end of the stadium, designed to avoid problems with playing surfaces common in many new stadia.

Completion: August 2001.

Cost: DM 315 million

Stadium Capacity:

  • The total capacity will be 62,000 including standing places for 15,000 home fans and 1,800 away fans.
  • Each standing area loses 50% of capacity when converted to seats, leaving the seated capacity of the stadium at 53,600.
  • The club will be issuing season tickets to only half of the 15,000 fans using the standing area, guaranteeing each one a seat in the same area when converted to seating.
  • The other 7,500 standing tickets are to be sold on a match by match basis, as the club felt it was important that standing tickets should always be available to those who cannot attend every game for whatever reason.
  • For the World Cup in 2006, the stadium will hold 52,000, with 46,100 fans; 3,100 media; and 2,800 VIPs.

Admission Costs:

  • Admission to the standing area for an adult is around 5
  • Admission for seating will be around 8.50
  • These prices also includes the cost of local public transport or parking.
  • Schalke have also implemented a revolutionary system for fans entering the stadium. Season tickets will be fitted with a microchip, and match day tickets with a bar code. This will only permit fans to enter via a specific area into the ground, a measure which could be used here to alleviate concerns about security.

Method of Standing / Seating Conversion:

  • Terraced steps with crash barriers at staggered intervals of every 10 rows.
  • On conversion, the barriers are removed and seats are installed on every other row.
  • These are the same seats as in other parts of the stadium, their method of attachment being the only difference.
  • The conversion takes two days to complete.
  • The area has been designed to ensure a full view of the pitch regardless of whether fans are sitting or standing, with a curve to the terrace.
  • The only difficulty the club have yet to resolve is the problem of actually storing the seats whilst not in use.

Known Specifications:

  • Crush barriers are designed to with hold 2000kg of pressure and the stand designed to carry a weight of 500kg per square meter, which is a national German standard.
  • However, here, they have deliberately built on the over cautious side and have also made an allowance for a 'dynamic load' which allows for times when stands will be under more pressure (for example, when a goal is scored, fans are jumping up and down etc.)

Club Views:

  • The new stadium has been built after regular and meaningful consultation with club officials, stadium designers, police authorities and fan groups.
  • Meetings still take place during construction and plans can still be changed to implement new ideas or to improve facilities. It is important to recognise that the safe standing areas in Germany have come about as a result of this close consultation between club and supporters.
  • The club's press officer told us that the club regards this consultation as 'good practice for social policy'. He said that 'we knew fans would want to stand in the Arena, and it was never considered to make it an all seated venue'.
  • In terms of the low admission prices charged, he added:
    'we could sell tickets at a much higher price, but we don't look at this as a business opportunity, football belongs to the fans'.
  • This was echoed by a representative from the fans initiative who added:
    'Schalke are conscious that there is a lot of unemployment in their region and the prices reflect that'.
  • The club believe that the safe standing areas have allowed Schalke to maintain access for all sections of society and to accommodate both those who choose to stand and those who choose to sit.
Standing area with curve for better sight lines at Schalke
P2120007.jpg (74475 bytes) Removable seat bolted to concrete, Schalke
P2120016.jpg (90665 bytes) Two at a time removable seats, Schalke

2. SV Hamburg

Stadium: Volksparkstadion

New/Rebuild: Complete renovation of a stadium originally built in 1952. The previous design, including an athletics track, disappeared as the pitch was rotated 90 degrees and new stands built right up to the pitch. Reconstruction has been undertaken in four phases since 1998.

Completion: Completed, 2000.

Cost: DM 159 million

Stadium Capacities:

  • The total capacity is 55,000, including standing places for 9,000 home fans and 1,100 away fans.
  • Again each standing area is reduced by 50% when converted to seats, leaving the seated capacity just over 50,000.
  • The home standing area is sold out 100% to season ticket holders.
  • When the seats are installed, the 50% of fans that cannot be accommodated are offered tickets in the upper tier at the same price as those fans sitting in the converted area.
  • For the World Cup in 2006, there will be a total of 50,125 seats, with 45,125 fans; 3,100 media; and 1,875 VIPs.

Admission Costs:

  • Admission for standing are around 3.50 (children) and 5.50 (adults)
  • Admission for seating is 5.50 (children; 11 (adults)
  • Hamburg take 50% of their total gate receipts from their corporate guests allowing standing tickets to be kept even lower.

Method of Standing / Seating Conversion:

  • A similar method of standing as Schalke, with crash barriers in use again.
  • However, the revolutionary innovation at Hamburg is that every other step has a metal plate attached to it and underneath each plate is a seat which folds away into the stand.
  • Once again the crash barriers are removed when seats are used to ensure a perfect view of the pitch is given.
  • The stand is split into three sections and each ticket identifies which section fans should enter.
  • The conversion process takes two people just two hours to complete.
  • When in use for standing, the metal plates are locked so they cannot be opened.
  • With the seats folding away underneath the terracing, the storage problems faced by Schalke are solved cost effectively.

Known Specifications:

No specifications for the crush barriers were available, although this information can be obtained in due course.

Club Views:

  • Officials at Hamburg are extremely proud of their standing areas, which are unique in football stadiums.
  • The club sees standing areas (and ultimately the benefits such as low prices) as a way of attracting the younger fan. They see this as an investment for the future - younger fans become tomorrows adults, hopefully bringing their children with them, ensuring a continuation of supporters wanting to see the club play in the stadium as opposed to on TV (or not having an interest in football at all!)
  • Again, the wishes of fans have been put in the forefront of the club's priorities, above commercial revenues:
    'we could sell advertising space above the standing area, but we left the space vacant so that fans could hang their banners and flags instead' the club spokesman said.
  • In discussion on the subject of crowd behaviour in the area, he added that:
    'because it is 100% season ticket holders in the area, fans know that if they misbehave, they will not be allowed back into that area at all. It is a great form of self-control, there are many disappointed fans who cannot get tickets for this standing area'
P2130029.jpg (144930 bytes) Contrast between seating and standing, Hamburg
P2130026.jpg (135936 bytes) The revolutionary folding seat system at Hamburg
P2130030.jpg (138002 bytes) Seat lock down method, Hamburg

3. Werder Bremen

Stadium: Weserstadion

New/Rebuild: Completely renovated in the 1990s and expanded in 2000. The pitch and athletic track remained in the same place, as each stand was upgraded one by one whilst games were still held at the stadium. However, the pitch will also be lowered by 1.8 metres to further expand the stadium and additional seating will be introduced on the running track for the 2006 World Cup.

Completion: Rebuild completed in 1997; pitch lowering and alterations to tunnel heights etc to be completed by 2002.

Stadium Capacities:

  • The total capacity is 36,000 including 5,000 standing for home fans only.
  • Again a 50% reduction during conversion brings the seated capacity to 33,500.
  • For the World Cup in 2006, the total capacity after the next phase of expansion will be 43,635 with 40,035 fans; 3,100 media; and 500 VIPs.

Admission Costs:

  • Admission for standing is 3.50 (children) 8.50 (adults)
  • Admission for seats is 7 (children) 12 (adults)

Method of Standing / Seating Conversion:

  • In Bremen, a different standing method is used. Every row has a barrier running the length of the standing area. Each row is double the normal width allowing for two people to stand comfortably, one in front of the other, between each barrier.
  • Attached to each barrier are fold-up seats that are simply unlocked in a matter of hours and pulled down for use when seating is required.
  • As with Hamburg, the problem of storage is solved at a cost-effective way.
  • The barriers were low enough to ensure that the view of the pitch remained clear when seated, again, ensuring no difficulties with the sightlines.
  • This is a similar system to the Olympic Stadium in Munich.

Known Specifications:

No specifications for the crush barriers were available, although this information can be obtained in due course.

Club Views:

  • Werder Bremen has a very effective 'Fan Projekt', run by youth workers who work closely alongside mainly younger supporters.
  • Fans here campaigned to keep standing areas when plans were made known of the redevelopment and, with the help of the club, created a model of the stand they wanted to see have a standing area built into.
  • The worker from the Fan Projekt stated:
    'the fans feel they have an ownership of the area and with that a sense of responsibility towards it, fans are aware that they need to behave themselves here, or they will lose it. There has been no damage or graffiti in the area during the five years it has been open'.
  • The club describes the standing area as 'the heart of the stadium'.
  • The stadium is referred to as 'the gem of the north' in Germany.
P2140040.jpg (157682 bytes) Werder Bremen standing section with seats folding down from crush barriers
P2140039.jpg (121031 bytes) Werder Bremen's seating / standing section with executive facilities behind

4. General Issues

It is clear that each of the three methods used was different, offered a full view of the pitch and met all UEFA / FIFA regulations regarding seated areas. Indeed, Germany scored higher than England on the technical report to the FIFA World Cup Bidding process. On entering the standing areas, fans were free to stand wherever and with whom they like, allowing for friends and families to watch a live match together - and at a price affordable to all fans both young and not so young!

Given our extensive experience of football grounds both here and abroad, knowledge which has been gained 'at the coal face', the stadia we visited were as modern, sophisticated and safe as any in England. Indeed, in many cases these stadia were better.

However, we are not technical experts, we are football fans. We believe that what we have seen demonstrates that introducing safe standing areas at football grounds in England is perfectly feasible. It is clear from the example Germany has set that this can be done whilst maintaining the highest possible standards of safety, comfort and facilities associated with modern stadia. We would like to reiterate that we do not want to see a return to the kind of terraces of yesteryear. Germany has demonstrated that, by using new technology and working with fans, it is possible to achieve safe standing areas.

However, there are a number issues which we have not touched on, yet were referred to during our visit.

i) Hooliganism:

Much has been said about the link between terraces and hooliganism. At all of the meetings we had, senior club officials, police officers, project workers and fans unanimously stated that there was no connection between standing up and hooliganism. In every ground the hooligans sat down - usually in a spot near to the away fans, well away from the standing areas.

At Bremen, the club actively encouraged younger fans into the standing area to prevent them from being enticed into, and mixing with the hooligan culture.

At Hamburg, the involvement of fans in the process and the sense of ownership they have over their standing areas acts as a deterrent to anti-social behaviour.

As with research conducted in this country, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever, that there is a causal or other link between fans standing and violent behaviour.

ii) Safety and Injuries:

We also need to point out that there was no evidence from those we met during our meetings to suggest those fans standing suffered anymore accidents or injuries than those sitting.

A further point to highlight is that the German Red Cross stated to us that it is far easier for them to gain access into a standing area when someone is in need of help than a seated area because fans can move out of the way more quickly.

This also reflects the comments of some safety officers here who have claimed that evacuating a standing area in an emergency is much quicker than clearing a seated area, and less likely to cause injury.

iii) The 2006 World Cup:

During the bidding process to host the 2006 World Cup, there was never a suggestion that stadiums with interchangeable standing / seating areas would not meet the requirements set out by UEFA or FIFA.

The German FA was satisfied that each stadium included into the bid met all national and global stadium regulations.

The fact that clubs were using modern technology to convert areas of the ground normally used for standing areas was not an issue - proof of which is the fact that the Germans won the right to host the finals!

Furthermore, some German stadia with convertible stand / seating are regularly used in European club competition such as the Champions League; and some are used for German national team games. Both of these are all-seater.

iv) Corporate Interests

It has been argued here that the introduction of safe standing areas would threaten the new image of football here and might put off corporate clients. However, in Germany the evidence is that the corporate facility holders like there to be safe standing areas in their grounds. Indeed, at all three grounds the corporate sections are sighted directly behind the standing areas, so that they can soak up the increased atmosphere generated by the standing fans. Corporate clients want to consume the atmosphere at grounds - it is part of the spectacle. Safe standing areas would make football attractive to all, not just those who want to stand.

v) Seated Fans

One of the problems being experienced in this country is that fans who want to stand do so in seated areas. This creates problems for those who want to sit because they cannot see. This is simply not a problem at the grounds we visited: those who want to stand do so; those who want to sit are able to do so and see the whole game. Indeed, visibility was exceptional; at each of the three grounds we visited, whether you stood or sat.

P2130034.jpg (167478 bytes) Standing area adds to the attraction for adjacent expensive corporate area, Hamburg

5. Conclusion

The visit to Germany was, without doubt, an invaluable experience. We gained a great insight into how everyone (fans, clubs, police, football authorities) consult and work together to find solutions for all issues - not just that of standing areas. It is clear that there are lessons that we in Britain should be learning from the German methods and processes we witnessed and learned about.

Safe standing areas do work. This was plainly evident - although in an environment where everyone wanted it to work. Where fans were consulted, they developed a feeling of ownership; this bought a greater sense of belonging and with it an added sense of responsibility. This is in stark contrast to fans in Britain who constantly feel alienated and excluded from any decisions made, often resulting in a negative reaction to policies implemented. For those currently concerned about the hooligan problem in this country, the lesson from Germany is clear - working with fans to create safe standing areas helps reduce fans becoming violent.

It is SAFE's understanding that the Football Licensing Authority (FLA) are also to visit SV Hamburg to undertake a study of standing areas. It is our recommendation that they too visit Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen. As stated in our report, they all have different types of standing / seating areas. To travel so far, yet to ignore other techniques available, could not enable the FLA to submit a full report on facilities on offer in Germany.

Indeed, we were not able to visit all the grounds we would have liked to, given that we all had to take time from work to undertake this visit, and that we had to raise our own money to do it. As such, we would also like to hear greater evidence about the following grounds:

  • Dortmund, Westfalenstadion: recently rebuilt their South Stand to be UEFA-compliant yet it caters for 25,000 standing and 10,500 seating (the biggest standing area anywhere in Europe). This is featured in the German World Cup 2006 bid document which states that it is "already fully up to World Cup standards".
  • Munich, Olympiastadion: although this stadium is to be partly rebuilt, they have a good convertible safe standing/seating system. This includes seating within crush barriers which are positioned on every other step, thus making a cascade, crush or swaying impossible. Many English fans (particularly Manchester United) have visited this ground and have been very impressed with the system there.
  • Frankfurt, Waldstadion: three stands are being rebuilt for 2006, providing 50,000 seated capacity with 7000 seats convertible to 14,000 standing areas for domestic matches.

Having said that, we do look forward to reading the FLA's opinions on the grounds we have seen and having a constructive debate about the feasibility of introducing safe standing here. Their expertise is clearly important. However, we would like to stress again that in our experience as fans, of football grounds around Europe, we consider these grounds to be among the best anywhere. They combine ultra-modern facilities and comfort with safe standing areas. They are clearly much better and safer than some of the grounds we visit regularly in this country. Most of all, they allow the fans both choice - in whether to sit or stand - and the ability to attend, through imaginative reduced pricing policies made possible by the extra capacity offered by safe standing areas.

We would like to finish the report by thanking the officials of Schalke 04, SV Hamburg and Werder Bremen for the time, openness and hospitality that they gave to us during our meetings. Our thanks also to the others who attended meetings with us, such as the police, security, stadium designers and 'Fan Projekt' workers. A special thanks to the fans of St Pauli FC, who hosted a splendid evening in their own 'Jolly Roger' bar on the Tuesday evening.

Finally, particular thanks to Stuart Dykes of the Shalke04 Fan Initiative for arranging all of the meetings beforehand and driving us all over Germany for four days. We look forward to welcoming him in England to watch a game from a safe standing area.

Phill Gatenby
SAFE
28th February 2001.

E-mail: [email protected]
Web: www.footballsupporter.net/safe

 


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