LIKE going out drinking all night and sleeping all morning, standing at football matches now feels like something from a bygone era. Once the three staples of any great weekend, all have fallen largely by the wayside in recent times due to the onset of a middle age ruled by incessantly demanding children and a gradual metamorphosis from human to sloth. Only with less mobility.

An invitation to a night out is now viewed with the same suspicion as an Inverness Caley Thistle employee watching an object wash up on the beach in front of their stadium. Noisy pubs, a fiver a pint, and waiting hours for a taxi no longer hold the same appeal when your youth is disappearing rapidly in the rear-view mirror.

A bottle of wine, a boxset and an early night will do fine instead, especially when there is next to no chance of sleeping off your hangover the following day. The correlation between getting up early and going to school appears to be lost on weans who still consider 6am a reasonable time to rise and shine at the weekend. Those You Tube videos won’t watch themselves after all.

Standing at the football was another much-cherished Saturday tradition. Crumbling terraces, crush barriers, and becoming one small part of a conjoined mass of humanity were what going to a match was all about. Glasses and false teeth would fly through the air with giddy abandon whenever a goal was scored, anxious search parties launched to try to retrieve them. It was exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure.

Frankly, though, it’s another thing you could well live without these days. Standing for any length of time can be a wearying business. Whether in a working or leisure capacity, there is something quite comforting, then, about the notion of a guaranteed seat at the football, even offering the opportunity for a quick nap during a particularly soporific contest.

What is important, though, is that fans at least have the choice. For many old duffers the phrase “safe-standing area” is as traumatising as “unrecognised item in the bagging area” or “stand up and say a few words about yourself”.

But for the younger generation – previously denied the chance to stand at top-flight matches – a relaxation of the rules has provided an opportunity for them to enjoy matches with the same boisterous enthusiasm as their elders did while they were still in the flush of vibrant youth.


Celtic’s decision to introduce a safe-standing area to their stadium has transformed the atmosphere at Parkhead. Kilmarnock are in the process of doing similar at Rugby Park, while there has been a sensible turning of a blind eye inside other stadia where youth groups tend to congregate and stand rather than sit in their designated section. This blossoming youth fan culture has given so much to the Scottish game over the past decade or so in terms of noise, colour and vitality.

Now English football may be about to experience a similar transformation following the publication of a report on Friday by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority that found that safe standing “had a positive impact on spectator safety”.

It is, of course, a particularly poignant issue south of the border given it was the Hillsborough disaster – when 96 Liverpool fans tragically lost their lives – that precipitated the introduction of all-seater stadia and made our football grounds safer again.

But time has moved on. Our stadia may be less dangerous but in many cases have become sterile places, devoid of atmosphere. Allowing those who want to stand within designated sections at the Etihad, Emirates or even Anfield won’t desecrate the memories of those who died. Instead it will serve as a reminder that society evolves and football needs to move with the times.

Many people may still choose to sit having become accustomed to the comfort over the last few decades – and who could blame them? - but supporters at least deserve to have the choice.

The same reasoning ought to also apply when it comes to getting a beer at an SPFL game, a privilege that has been afforded English fans for years with little sign of Armageddon descending.

Forty years have almost passed since the infamous 1980 Scottish Cup Final when Celtic and Rangers fans stumbled around Hampden in a drunken stupor and match commentator Archie MacPherson rather hyperbolically compared it to the Battle of Passchendaele.

And yet an ordinary fan going to a match still can’t order a pint alongside their pie in case the sky falls down if someone takes ownership of a low-alcohol beverage. Even then there is an element of hypocrisy, given the wine flows freely in the neighbouring hospitality suites and many clubs have an adjoining supporters bar where booze is widely available before and after a match.

Heaven forfend anyone should be given free roam to sup a pint within 50 metres of a football pitch lest it cause them to abandon all rational sense and turn into the Incredible Hulk after he’s just stood on a piece of Lego.

Supporters deserve the right to have their voices heard when it comes to the facilities inside their grounds. Now, how about swapping those hard plastic seats for some nice sofas?