Atmosphere within football stadiums in England is very much a hot topic at the moment. Last Sunday’s Merseyside Derby at Goodison Park produced an incredible atmosphere due to fans and the club working in tandem to create that atmosphere. Since that game everybody has been discussing ways to maintain that level of noise on a consistent basis, simply because our opponents each game will not be our local rivals who are chasing a Premier League title win.
That is not to say that we cannot improve the atmosphere at Goodison Park, we most certainly can and with groups such as @1878Originals doing their bit working together with the club, the Old Lady can rock much better than it has done in recent memory. The challenge then becomes how can we maintain that atmosphere when we move to our new home on the banks of the royal blue mersey?
We think that the answer is already being used in football stadiums across Europe (and a couple on these shores). Toffee TV recently embarked on a visit to Germany to discover whether the difference in atmosphere within Premier League stadiums and their Bundesliga counterparts was due to the fact that supporters over in Germany are permitted to stand for matches?
In Germany we witnessed Rail Seating at first hand and we are aware that this is something that Everton Football Club are looking to have when we move to our new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock. It is a system that is already in use at Celtic Football Club and Shrewsbury Town FC.
Rail seating, we believe, is the key to improving atmospheres within football stadiums up and down the country. What we witnessed in Germany was incredible atmospheres and fans fully invested in the game in the standing areas. We visited two different stadiums, Fortuna Dusseldorf’s Merkur Spiel-Arena and Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park. The atmosphere in both was amazing and both had terracing. Now Dusseldorf does not have the Rail Seating that Dortmund had but the terraces was where the noise reverberated around the stadium. At Dortmund we stood in the Rail Seating section on the Yellow Wall and it was incredible. The noise, the atmosphere and the safety aspect of the rail seating was second to none and even when Dortmund scored three times there was no surge forward like used to happen on old terracing. Check out the video below to see a visual explanation of how the rail seating works at Dortmund.
We returned from Germany in no doubt that Rail Seating simply has to implemented at Bramley Moore Dock and that Everton Football Club could be the pioneers in the Premier League at having a bigger ratio than currently allowed which is 1:1 (1 person for one seat).
Rail Seating is currently now allowed within Premier League stadiums, however the caveat to that is that the seats must remain in a locked position therefore not allowing supporters to stand up. Tottenham Hotspur have put a section of rail seats in their new stadium but again using a ratio of 1:1. There has to be some lobbying for a rule change to that ratio and speaking to some experts there is no reason why that ratio will not be increased.
More information regarding Rail Seating
Rail seats – The design
Each rail seat incorporates a high back with a sturdy top rail that comes up to approximately the waist height of the spectator standing behind it.
The top rail behind each seat links firmly into the next one right along the row, thus creating a continuous, robust barrier along its full length.
Despite being called seats, their primary function is that of a waist-high rail for the spectators standing behind them and for all domestic games the seats would remain folded up (if desired / permitted by the newly drafted regulations, the seats can be locked in this position). When folded up the seats lie flush between the uprights of the frame, thus making the whole railing just a few centimetres deep and freeing up the maximum amount of space between each row of rails for standing fans and ease of access and egress for stewards and paramedics.
Rail heights in Germany vary between 90 and 115cm.
Rail heights compliant with Green Guide
The minimum height required here by the Green Guide for barriers in traditional standing areas at rugby and lower league football grounds is 102cm.
There may be an argument to revise this downwards for rails in safe standing areas, as with a maximum of 2 rows of spectators between each rail, they will never be called upon to withstand the same forces as rails on ‘old-fashioned’ terracing.
Even without any such lowering of the required height, however, it can be seen from the heights in use in Germany (up to 115cm) that rail seats can comfortably comply with the current minimum 102cm height requirement (110cm for new builds).
Clear space for added safety
The images on the right show a rail seat folded up (potentially locked in that position), flush between the uprights and, below, the clear space between each upright in single step configuration (i.e. one row of standing fans between each line of rail seats). The freedom of movement along such rows is significantly better for stewards and/or paradmedics than along rows of ‘normal’ seats, which project substantially into the free space and can also fall forward uncontrollably to cause an obstruction and trip hazard.
Standing to seating ratios
The Green Guide also compares the amount of space required for seated and standing spectators respectively. As a guide for the lower leagues where standing areas are permitted, it specifies a ratio of 18 standing fans for every 10 spectators in seats. At many grounds in Germany the ratio is similar (2:1 at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and VfB Stuttgart, for instance).
Working on the basis even of the current Green Guide ratio, stadium capacities could thus be increased as shown below by installing rail seats for standing spectators in areas currently used for seating.
And with higher capacities, potential gate receipts could naturally also be increased. The example below shows how this might work out if standing spaces were priced at a discount of, for instance £10 from the seat price.
For example (assuming 10% of a 40,000 all-seater stadium is converted to standing):
4,000 x seated fans at (say) £30 per ticket = £120,000
7,200 x standing fans at (say) £20 per ticket = £144,000
Potential extra gate revenue per game = £24,000
Potential extra gate revenue over a notional 20-game season = £480,000
Potential total extra revenue (including expenditure on drinks etc.) = £1,022,000
In Dortmund the ratio for the Rail Seating is 2:1 and whilst a ratio of 2:1 would not be allowed within the Premier League a ratio of 1.5 : 1 should be achievable given the data they have to back it.
We are of course currently awaiting Dan Meis’s drawings regarding Bramley Moore Dock and how a proposed stadium (we should find out that information once the new consultation goes live in May) would look but we all have to have our say and in our opinion make it known to the club that we back rail seating and as much of it as is possible. Below is taken from the Safe Standing Website .
A bright idea for clubs
Why it would be a bright idea for clubs to instal rail seats
As you try to persuade your club to take a look at the opportunities offered by rail seats, the following may help you to formulate compelling arguments:
1. A significant number of their ‘customers’ would welcome it… More >>>
2. Stadium stewards would welcome it…More >>>
3. This can increase gate receipts…More >>>
4. More secondary matchday revenue…More >>>
5. Counters criticism that football has priced out the working class…More >>>
6. Helps to secure the next generation of lifetime fans…More >>>
7. Adds value to hospitality packages…More >>>
8. Increases crowd safety…More >>>
9. Saves money on seat repairs…More >>>
So having looked at the above ‘Pros’ it is safe to say that really there is no reason as to why Everton could not try and get as many rail seats in the stadium as possible to give us that increased capacity of more than the 52k number the club has already thrown out but many fans want a bigger capacity than that and we need to future proof our stadium for growth as much as we possibly can do.
Bramley Moore Dock with say 10k Rail Seats (if not more) could then produce 15k standing which would be an incredible sight and make Everton’s vision of a Blue Wall at the South End of the Stadium, Iconic. This is where in our opinion we have to let the club know that we want this to happen, the atmosphere would then be created by these standing sections and would encourage other fans in the seating areas of the stadium to join in again increasing the atmosphere and noise levels. This is something we witnessed in Germany.
Then the fan groups like 1878 Originals would then really be able to crank up the volume and atmosphere and become our own version of “Dortmund Ultras” in terms of orchestrating the atmosphere to help the team. The response from the manager and players since the derby regarding the atmosphere only qualifies the notion that vociferous home support drives the players on and this can become a massive advantage not only for the present at Goodison Park but for us at Bramley Moore Dock once we move there.