Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind
I’m still standing
(Yeah yeah yeah)
I’m still standing
(Yeah yeah yeah)
Elton John – I’m Still Standing
This post is a response to Iain S’s somewhat prescient comments on Tuesday morning concerning the provision or otherwise of a standing area in any new stadium build at the BPA.
Fair play to Iain, his thoughts on this subject couldn’t have been any more timely as just a few hours later Cov Chairman, Jon Sharp, was unveiling to supporters at the Fans’ Forum that evening plans of what the new stadium might look like in the not too distant future
His comment clearly struck a chord with several readers. However, not everyone who reads a post will then return to digest the comments that sometimes follow, so I’ve taken the liberty of copying across in full what Iain wrote as a starting point for further discussions. (Sorry Iain, it was a last-minute decision and there wasn’t time to get in touch but your strength of feeling on the subject I didn’t thin you’d mind!).
So, here is Iain’s comment…
You mention the plans for ground redevelopment and the involvement of architects etc. I’m sure when I’ve seen this mentioned before Jon Sharp has suggested the intention is for an all-seater stand on the undeveloped side of the ground.
This seems as good a time and place as any to put in a plea for any new stand along the side of the pitch to incorporate a significant element covered terracing for those who want to stand up to watch Cov.
This isn’t just ‘Bring back the cowshed’ nostalgia (although there may be an element of that). My arguments are as follows. First, the demand is clearly there. Anything up to a third of those watching Cov games at the Butts Park are currently choosing to stand, even though one has to do so pretty much at pitch level and the views are better from the grandstand. It’s not fanciful to think that if there were a covered terrace with raised vantage points even more people would stand – the more so if there is going to be an extra charge for seating.
Second, standing areas increase capacity when compared to seating – more people fit in if they are standing up. If there were a capacity crowd this would offset any lost income from people going for the cheap standing option rather than paying for a seat.
Also it creates a better atmosphere – less like a night at the theatre. It avoids the problem of people’s views being blocked as those in front of them jump out of their seats for a try. And those who want to move positions to follow the action, or want to buy a beer etc. during a lull in play, can do so without forcing everyone in their row to get out of their seats. Lastly, rugby doesn’t have the same crowd control/segregation issues as football that make all-seater stadiums desirable. And even in football there is a move to bring back safe standing – West Brom sadly had their application for a standing area turned down.
I can’t be the only one who feel it would be a worse viewing experience if the only option for standing was at ground level behind the goalposts.
For all I know there may be practical/commercial reasons why this is not a viable option. Or I may have got hold of the wrong end of the stick and the club is already planning to include some covered terracing. But it seems worth mentioning now while plans are still being developed.
I’m not saying that a new stand should be all terracing. But my impression (from watching on TV) is that even some Premiership and Pro 14 grounds other grounds on TV (Northampton? Scarlets?) have some kind of raised standing area in front of the seats.
Firstly, any comments made are always really appreciated and, as in this instance, if they concern something that is germane to a current issue, or reflect something that others also feel strongly about (even if potentially divisive) then I’m always willing to follow them up via a separate post. If there’s anything you want discussing, especially in the close season when there’s little or no news coming out of the BPA, then please leave a comment!
Having seen the photos of the proposed plans on Tuesday, I’m unclear whether standing room is to be made available or if the intention is to make the new stadium an all-seater (no one asked on Tuesday what the capacity would be once the stadium is completed – I’ll see if I can find that one out).
Jon Sharp has been upfront about the plans and there was a booklet floating around the Forum which I imagine might have had additional information on the latest plans but it didn’t make its way to where I was so I’m none the wiser I’m afraid. Given Jon asked it to be passed around there’s no clear secrecy about them so perhaps it might be possible to get hold of them…
As far as I can recall, all the various press releases I’ve been seen to date do indeed refer to an all-seater stadium, but they were mostly around the time that there was a possible ground share with Coventry City, so things will have changed somewhat since then.
Iain has presented the arguments for including an area of covered terracing to allow supporters the option to stand in a clear and erudite way and it’s hard to see what the arguments against any such inclusion might be. I should also lay my cards out on the table here and say on balance I would prefer to have a standing section in any new build, although perhaps one not quite as extensive as that proposed by Iain.
However, playing devil’s advocate a little, Iain is banking on the stadium being pretty near capacity. If it’s not, then there could be a problem.
As he says, more supporters fit into a standing area than a seated one, but if it were to prove popular amongst regular supporters but gates were well down on capacity, then I’m guessing that it wouldn’t necessarily be something that the club would embrace. Not only would there be less income generated (presuming entrance to the ground remains cheaper for those who stand), large areas of the stadium could be left vacant which isn’t something the club would want to encourage.
I’m of an age now where I prefer to sit, although there are many older than me who don’t – it’s probably that their somewhat fitter and less achy than I am these days. When we go to grounds without seating I’m always on a bit of a downer not just because standing can become uncomfortable over the duration of a game, but also because you tend to be pitch side and that often is limiting in terms of the views offered. If there is any sort of crowd, then unless you’re at the front you’re somewhat stymied.
One of the few pluses about watching rugby at Ampthill (and there aren’t too many for me) is that there is a large grass bank running pretty much the length of the entire pitch on the near side so at least you can get an elevated view of what is happening. It’s no wonder why those who do presently prefer to stand would like to see that ‘terraced’ option in any new ground build.
It certainly generates a very different atmosphere than when seated. I had the misfortune of sitting in the seat directly in front of the very loud gentleman from DMP on Saturday, the one who made Mark H sound something akin to a church mouse. Were I standing it would have been easy just to move elsewhere. Less so though at the weekend.
As Iain rightly points out, there might be very good reasons why a dedicated area within any new stadium can’t be given over to supporters preferring to stand, but it might just be that the club isn’t aware that there is such a sizeable group of supporters who would prefer not to have to sit. Whether it’s up to a third of the total attendance at times I’m not so sure, but there are currently a considerable number who opt to stand on the far side opposite the main stand and at the railway end.
So I’ve created a poll just to test the mood of the Cov supporters, regular or transient, with regard to the inclusion of a standing area in any new stadium. I know there’s a science to how polls should be written to avoid bias but this one is just a very rough and ready indication of any strength of feeling, one way or the other.
Please give it a go:
It might well be a decision regarding standing at the new ground has already been made in which case this is all rather academic, although interesting nonetheless. However, depending on the response to the poll, it might be something that the Supporters’ Club could enquire about in their regular discussions with the club.
Whether it’s a done deal or just a non-starter, better to knock it on the head now rather than it run and run and build up false hopes.
Anyone who spent Saturdays watching games from the the old Cowshed at Coundon Road will doubtless have retained some fond memories. Two generations on and I’m not so sure spectators new to rugby will take quite so well to standing as it’s something outside of their sporting experience at a national level for the most part.
One last thought.
As Jon Sharp mentioned on Tuesday evening, something reinforced by Phil Boulton as well, Cov is and always will be a ‘traditional’ rugby club, built on traditional core values. It’s a club proud of its past and the Cowshed at Coundon Road was an extremely important part of the club’s history…
…maybe, just maybe, if there is the demand for a covered, terraced standing area then its inclusion in any new build would be seen as a testament to the journey the club has taken for these past 140 odd year. It would be a reminder of the clubs roots and of the it’s long and distinguished history. The last bastion of a by-gone era.
It could be a permanent echo of Cov’s glory days set against the backdrop of a modern, state-of-the art rugby stadium.
A bright future built on a great past.
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I can’t believe the first album I ever bought myself was Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only The Piano Player – Elton John’s sixth album. In my defence I was only 13 and Crocodile Rock is a classic (but it did also include Daniel….).
Elton’s at his best when he ups the tempo a bit and I’m Still Standing is a great example of him belting out a great tune…