Stand up for the Clarets - or sit down

Last updated : 11 December 2012 By Tony Scholes

I'd gone with my dad and granddad and they were good company for a young boy as they were always armed with Nuttall's Mintoes and Riley's Chocolate Rolls. To help me see my dad had taken with him a little wooden buffet my mum kept in the kitchen, for what reason she had it I'm not sure. That was to be my regular perch for some time, a buffet placed on an often packed terrace for me to stand on.

That's how it was in the early 1960s. Coming off at the end you could see lots of dads carrying such items that had helped their sons see the game.

Most people stood to watch football back then. There was little option with only a limited number of seats available on the Brunshaw Road side of the ground. I think it was the posh folk who sat in there, those with a bit more brass, alongside those who probably thought they were a bit better than the mere standing supporters.

I only once sat in there and that was for the last ten minutes of a reserve game when I sneaked in with some mates. I couldn't see the attraction. It wasn't anything like as good as standing.

At nearly every game it was the same crowd of people around us, as if each group had its own bit of territory be it there, at the cricket field end on the far side or on that big popular terrace, later to be known as the Longside, between the two.

That's what you did. You stood to watch your football. I graduated from the Bee Hole to join the throngs at the cricket field end, revelling in the brilliant atmosphere created. I still recall that incredible night when the cheating Italians of Napoli arrived. I don't think there's been a better atmosphere since at the Turf.

I'd left my dad and granddad at the other end but it came as a shock at the end of the 1960s when my granddad called it a day. He couldn't stand for ninety minutes any longer, presumably due to his arthritis. He was getting on in years. The seats weren't for him, that's how it was then, and so his days as an active supporter were over.

He must have felt as if he didn't have a choice. It was stand or don't go. HIs football from then was in front of the television watching Match of the Day.

Almost twenty years later my dad found himself in the same position. It was illness in my dad's case. It was the start of the 1988/89 season. Sitting at football had, by then, become acceptable for everyone, not just the posh folk, and he, along with my brother, moved into the Bob Lord Stand. He had the choice that had never been available to my granddad.

As it happened, even with the seats, he was only able to go on a couple more times and that's when I joined my brother in the Bob Lord. I think I've only stood at a few home games since and the last one was the FA Cup tie against Stoke in 1990.

That was my choice but in recent years my choice has been taken away from me. Not as though I wish to stand any longer. Like my granddad and my dad before me I am no longer in a position physically to stand at football.

The last time I did, by choice, was at Morecambe for the Carling Cup tie in 2010. I struggled to walk the day after the game and knew that the next time we had standing and sitting accommodation, and it came at Peterborough last season, it would be the seats for me.

Unfortunately, I've not been able to sit at every game. At home it's been fine but away from home I've often had the problem of having to stand in front of my seat just so I can see the game because of people in front of me opting to stand. I've suffered for it the day after but at least I can stand. There are other Burnley fans who travel to away games who are just unable to do that any longer and they miss seeing the action.

I can really sympathise with those who wish to stand. I've been there and if I were more physically able than I am now it would remain my choice to stand, particularly at away games. Sadly, the situation as it is now causes disagreements amongst our own fans.

Just as my granddad felt he had no choice over forty years ago, we have gone full circle and are now back to supporters again having no choice and this is one of the reasons why I fully support the Football Supporters' Federation (FSF) campaign for a trial of the rail seat type of standing used in Germany.

I was delighted when Burnley Football Club joined other clubs in supporting the trial and today it has been confirmed that there are 13 clubs from the Premier and Football Leagues who are in support. That list includes Aston Villa from the Premier League and eight Championship clubs including three with new stadia, namely Cardiff, Derby and Hull.

Villa and Peterborough have offered their grounds for a small scale trial of the technology and for Peterborough it could be vital as they will be forced next season, if they are not relegated, to go all seater.

Today the FSF have held 'The Case for Safe Standing in Football' at Portcullis House in Westminster. Attending were Paul Faulkner (CEO at Villa), Bob Symns (Peterborough CEO), Professor Steve Frosdick (independent safety expert), Fiona McGee (researcher and writer) and Superintendent Steven Graham (West Midlands Police Force).

It was sponsored by Roger Godsiff MP and, at the event, MPs were able to view a demonstration of the rail seats.

When I recently published an article on Clarets Mad, who are, along with the Supporters' Clubs, representing our club's fans in this issue, I asked for people to contact their MPs to request they sign the Early Day Motion and, if possible, attend today's event. It had some success with both the Burnley and Pendle MPs offering their support.

Whilst wishing that the event has been a success I can only hope that one day soon we as football fans will again be offered the choice of standing or sitting at football matches. Who knows, I might just get my knees sorted for one last 90 minutes on my feet in a safe standing area.

If I do, it will be my choice, and that's exactly how it should be.