Stand in the Place Where You Are
Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion is rarely mentioned in the same breath as Peterborough United’s London Road but both are at the centre of one of the hottest debates among football fans of recent years: the issue of standing at matches. The Taylor Report’s seemingly incontrovertible conclusions sprung up in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster and its preceding long decade of trauma and, in tune with Italia 90, Fever Pitch, Richard Keys and the boys, ushered us into a new era alive and kicking. So, it was with a sense of heady nostalgia that I took up my place against the foremost crash barrier at the Moys End on Saturday. True, just last year, I had had an opportunity to relive my formative years at Dagenham, but this was a fairly high profile league game, just one notch below the Promised Land.
Whereas the club from the Ruhrgebiet have reinstated standing as an enlightened reaction to the decline in hooliganism of recent years and a way of keeping prices down and the decibel level up, Posh’s upright sections never went away. Darragh MacAnthony’s money has been swilling around for a couple of seasons now, but just as Cardiff chose to wait until they absolutely had to spend money on stadium rather than team, the Cambridgeshire club find themselves in new found exalted company with a rubbly throwback of an away terrace.
It is said that football’s main demographic is a male somewhere between 25 and 50 and hence, the suggestion that standing sections be reinstated has been declared a no brainer in most quarters. Saturday proved to be no exception, with the tiny seating area reserved for away fans looking very forlornly populated and most Royals followers choosing to remain on their feet. I, fitting as I do within that demographic, found myself to be perfectly content, but the problems arise for older and younger fans. Next to me was a young curly top of about 10 whose attention was wandering throughout: his Dad proclaiming him to be unused to two hours on his pegs. Similarly, members of the older generation seem to regard a return to the pre-seats world as akin to ordering a new black and white telly or bread and dripping for one’s tea (on this point, Posh generously allowed Seniors to choose between the two viewing options for the same price).
The other chief cited argument for a return to the old days is the probable better atmosphere generated by standing areas: although the low roof at London Road probably had as much to do with the thunderous clamour of the first 45 minutes). That said, fans aren’t crammed in like they were in 1982 and one doesn’t experience that rush of being transported down the terrace like one used to be. All in all, I enjoyed revisiting the experience but would declare myself agnostic as to my enthusiasm for future forays. I would support the Stand Up, Sit Down Campaign but should its objectives be realised, I might not take advantage of them myself.