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The return of the standing stands in European cups, “a colossal victory” for the supporters

The 2022-2023 season has not yet started and the supporters are already popping the champagne and cracking their first smoke bombs. Indeed, the UEFA executive committee approved, on Wednesday, the return of standing stands in its European competitions for the coming season, in three countries, England, Germany and France. Two other countries (Italy and Spain) could have benefited from this measure but no team qualified for the European Cup had a stadium suitable for the standing configuration. In France, this measure concerns the Parc des Princes, which was part of the experimental program set up by the LFP in recent years, and the Beaujoire in Nantes, whose Loire stand is considered a standing stand according to the criteria of the LFP. ‘.

This historic decision is the result of immense lobbying work carried out for many years now by supporters’ associations, Football Supporters Europe in the lead, which had made this issue one of its battle horses, with the European body. For Ronan Evain, the executive director of FSE, it is neither more nor less than “a colossal victory for the European stands”. “The FSE welcomes this decision as a logical and positive step towards a complete reassessment of UEFA’s multi-seater policy,” reads the association’s statement released on Wednesday.

Introduced in the 90s to meet a need for security, the ban on standing stands had finally become obsolete over the years with the modernization of stadiums, as Ronan Evain explains. “It’s a historic and legitimate step forward because UEFA’s position was not based on objective elements, it was a consequence of the disasters of the 80s, except that the stadiums have changed, the security of the stadiums too, so this position seemed more and more absurd. »

A test season

Especially since in the meantime, some countries such as Germany, Sweden, Norway and Austria had made the bet to maintain portions of stadiums where supporters could stand to encourage their team. In recent years, England, Scotland, the Netherlands and France have also gradually reviewed their position on the subject. “From the moment these major football countries reintroduced standing stands, UEFA’s position was no longer tenable,” says Ronan Evain.

An important clarification is however necessary: ​​this authorization is not a blank check given to the supporters of the countries concerned since this is only a test season, as specified by the secretary general of the UEFA, Theodore Theodoridis in a statement: “The aim of the program is to allow UEFA to observe the normal use of a range of different standing facilities in the participating countries of England, France and England. Germany over the coming season. These observations, made by independent experts, will guide UEFA’s future decisions”.

At Chelsea, Stamford Bridge has been upgraded to allow the standing stands to return safely.
At Chelsea, Stamford Bridge has been upgraded to allow the standing stands to return safely. – ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP

A “peaceful relationship” between UEFA and supporters

For Ronan Evain, who bases his analysis on his own expertise within the FSE as well as on the work of the National Association of Supporters (ANS) and the LFP within the National Instance of Supporterism, this experimentation is led to to perpetuate.

“Once this phase has been completed, we have good hopes that it will develop wherever possible in European competitions. Because we know from experience, and according to the results of several studies, that standing stands have no negative effects on safety, it is even rather the opposite, so we can imagine that we are moving towards a reintroduction progressive and widespread. »

Indeed, the installation in the bends of seats equipped with backrests had often proved to be more dangerous and conducive to accidents than anything else, the supporters continuing to stand up at all costs. But concretely, what will it give? If in some countries this decision will not change the capacity of the stadiums, this is not the case in Germany where the clubs were forced to (re) switch to a seated configuration during European matches and lose capacity.

This is for example the case of Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, which went from 81,365 places in the Bundesliga to 66,099 in the Champions League or Europa League. “It means more people in the stadiums, so potentially cheaper tickets and also a better atmosphere, there is only positive to be drawn from it”, notes the executive director of FSE, who also welcomes “the development of ‘a more peaceful and ambitious working relationship with UEFA’. Hope it lasts.

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