The Thundercliffe Files: sitting room only?

Cod Almighty | Article

by Paul Thundercliffe

24 January 2020

Both reserved and unreserved seating have flaws for away fans. Perhaps the solution is to reintroduce safe standing areas

The Thundercliffe Files

Valley Parade is a ground I'm familiar with, seeing my first ever Town away win as we bulldozed the Bantams in January 1991; Yorkies, what was the score? But the match in two weeks will be our first visit for over a decade.

Bradford away was always going to be a big away match, and recent rallying has meant that Town are likely to take up the full allocation of over 2,500 tickets. It has sparked an interesting debate regarding ticketing arrangements.

Reserved versus unreserved seating is an interesting issue that seems to have polarised some fans. On one hand, you get the seat you're given and with a stroke of luck it will give you the best view of a marauding Max jinking his way to goal. On the other, if it's unreserved, you can pick the view you want, sit with your mates and enjoy the game.

One of the issues with unreserved seating is that often – as at Orient – huge swathes of fans come together looking for a bank of space and typically none is available. This can lead to some fans congregating in areas not conducive for either them or fellow fans to see. Reserved seating can sometimes see those in certain areas having to stand as that is the want of a particular group. Certainly this happened at Palace and Chelsea. No doubt it will at Bradford too.

This highlights a bigger issue: that of standing to watch football matches. I started my time as a Town fan standing and have had some memorable moments threshing around the top left of the Pontoon. Those golden games of the early 1990s saw us "go fucking mental" as the crowd behind that goal bubbled and sucked the ball in. When supporters were criminalised in the 1980s and penned in to watch a not-so-beautiful game, nobody cared shit and the Hillsborough tragedy was destined to happen.

When fans have a choice, many do decide to stand. There's something about an open terrace that's good for the soul, moving with the heartbeat of the crowd around you, feeling the pulse of the group as it swells once a chance swings by

The reaction was to ban standing and introduce all-seater stadia. Thanks to generous grants and canny businessmen, football clubs soon saw the commercial value in seats, pricing the regular fan out of the game. It was a perfect storm – legislation meant it had to happen, with no cap on the prices that were charged for the same spot in the ground that used to be standing.

That law curiously had some caveats, and standing exists at a number of football league clubs. Already this season, Town fans have stood at Morecambe, Salford and Macclesfield, and will have the opportunity at Crawley this weekend. When fans have a choice, many do decide to stand while Town (we hope) deliver. There's something about an open terrace that's good for the soul, moving with the heartbeat of the crowd around you, feeling the pulse of the group as it swells once a chance swings by.

Safe-standing has been trialled – most notably at Shrewsbury – and the new Spurs stadium is future-proofed should it become legislation. I'm sure that it is something that would be welcomed at Blundell Park, possibly in that top corner of the Ponny or maybe a section of the Lower Findus who prefer standing anyway.

If there is a will to reintroduce standing areas, and the amount of fans – particularly away from home – who regularly stand suggest that there is, then the idea of unreserved/reserved seating could become a thing of the recent past.

Reserved or unreserved? Sitting room or standing too? Tell us what you think.