|STAND UP IF YOU LOVE FOOTBALL
(15th December 2005 - revised 20th December 2005)
Wycombe Wanderers Supporters' Trusts are hoping to use the live TV game with Leyton Orient on Thursday 29th December to highlight the issues relating to safe standing at football matches in the UK. Both the Founders' Trust and Supporters' Trust have worked together on the initiative that has attracted the attention of the local and national media. Representatives from campaigning bodies such as 'Stand Up, Sit Down' and the 'Football Supporters Federation' will also be in attendance at the match in an effort to get their message across.
The Trusts have also opened up their arms to supporters of other clubs by inviting them to stand on the Valley End terrace for the evening. The Valley End terrace is the only standing terrace remaining at Adams Park following dramatic changes made to the ground since it opened for business in August 1990.
The ground initially had a licensed capacity of 6,000 with three sides of terracing, albeit with minimal crash barriers. Installation and modification of the crash barriers over the next five years saw the standing capacity increased to over 7,500 and the total capacity raised to a fraction over 9,000.
However, by 2005 even though the total capacity of the ground has risen to 10,000, less than 2,000 terrace places remain. The first inroads into what were popular standing areas of the ground came in the summer of 1997 when the 5,000 seater Woodlands Stand replaced the 3,000 standing capacity Woodlands Terrace. At the same time, the now designated 'away end' had 1,000 seats bolted on to what was a 2,500 capacity terrace - a terrace well remembered for the fantastic atmospheres created in the FA Cup meetings with the likes of West Brom, Norwich City and West Ham.
The 'away end' was doubled in size during the summer of 2001 and in order to retain the overall maximum capacity to 10,000, standing areas in front of the 'old' main stand and a percentage of the 'home' Valley End terrace were removed from the remaining available space.
The reduction in available standing accomodation is not perculiar to Wycombe Wanderers. Just 14 of the 24 clubs in 'League Two' still have terracing and three of those (including Wycombe) are restricted to 'home' fans only. Meanwhile, in 'League One' only seven clubs have terracing with two of these currently designated as 'home' only areas. Further up the Football League and Premiership, legislation requires clubs to play in all seater stadium after three years of playing in what is currently branded 'The Championship'.
At Wycombe the Valley End terrace remains precious to many people who still enjoy the freedom of choice of being able to stand. There have been numerous debates over the years on the gradual reduction of that choice. The lack of supporter consultation regarding ground development under the old regime may be in the past but with common personel on the current PLC Board, there are sure to be divided views behind the scenes. However, Managing Director Steve Hayes is supportive of the initiative, commenting to the Wanderers official website, "If an atmosphere can be retained while abiding by all safety standards then there could still be a future for terraces for those who want them but I appreciate that some people, particularly parents with families, prefer seats." Hayes, who will be standing with some of his family and friends at the game added, "The idea is that with sensible planning, everyone can be satisfied."
Note: Those wishing to stand on the terrace for the Leyton Orient game should be aware that as an additional safety measure that entrance to the terrace will be by ticket only. Existing Valley End Season Ticket holders can enter as normal, but those who are not should obtain a ticket from the usual outlets or by telephoning the ticket hotline at the Club on 01494-441118. Seat Season Ticket holders can also switch their ticket for a standing place but in all cases this should be done before the day of the match. Advance ticket prices are £13 for adults, £11 for OAPS and £5 for students and juniors (under 16's). Newcomers to Adams Park should also note that the pitch has undersoil heating which should guarantee play, even in inclement weather.
As a further safety measure, people under the height of 1.2m (4 feet) will also be asked to relocate to another part of the ground. Chairboys.co.uk understands that this restriction will only be in force for this game due to the liklihood of the terrace coming close to its capacity 1,850. In relation to this, the Football Club issued a statement on Friday 16th December that included the following, "In the relevant safety documentation regarding stadia, there are guidelines that suggest that clubs should, where appropriate, develop a strategy for dealing with children in the event of a crush to prevent any injury being caused by the crush barriers which are 1.1m high. For this match, as the terrace is expected to be near to capacity, the Club's strategy is to prevent any person under the height of 1.2m entering the terrace. As the aim of the exercise is to demonstrate that standing in a packed terrace is safe, we need to ensure that all guidelines are adhered to."
See wwst.org news item for further info on ticket availabilty and safety procedures being introduced for this match (updated 20th Dec 2005)
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