Sunday, 8 December 2013

On The Breaking Of Stadium Seating

On The Breaking Stadium Seating

Firstly, let me be perfectly clear, I do not condone breaking stadium seats, setting off flares, vandalism, racism or sectarianism etc. The people behind these kinds of things are generally “wee neds” that need good “boot the in baws” some of them are older and wiser and should know better. They bring shame on the club they say they support & tar their fellow club supporters and football supporters in general with a rather “ugly brush” A lot of it is social problems connected to football supporters and to society in general – but we’ve had them for well over 50 years – “social education” has not helped much has it?

There should be no place for these people in a football stadium, but how do you tell who is going to break a seat, set off a flare, chant a racist or sectarian slogan? Do you socially profile people and exclude them from football because their profile says there is an x% chance of them committing an offence? Good luck with that if you think it’s OK, the European court of human rights will be very busy and the lawyers will make a lot of money!

You can’t tell who’s going to commit an offense, you can have a strong suspicion, but that’s all it is – we don’t have thought police, though I’m sure the government would very much like to have them!

That all said how easy is it to break a stadium seat? They are rather flimsy, relatively thin plastic and low grade metal, but they obviously have to pass certain H&S standards for use in any stadium. In general the higher the pass mark something has the “better” it usually is and usually the more expensive it is. 

Why pay for the more expensive items when the law and the Health and Safety Executive say “this will do, this is fit for purpose by our standards”?

Now I need to make a couple of assumptions here and I stand to be corrected on them, I do not have the actual costs, so I have used figures as opposed to mathematical symbols – easier for all to understand and follow (I hope).

Let us assume it costs £10 per seat to install for the cheapest ones – these are the easily broken ones but they pass the H&S standards – it costs £5 to replace a broken one.

Let us also assume its costs £20 per seat to install for the sturdier and more expensive ones – the very difficult to break ones, of a much higher standard – it costs £10 to replace a broken one.

I’m also assuming a stadium of 30,000 capacity, it could obviously be less or it could be more.
The costs of seat installation would then be £300,000 Vs £600,000 (£10 * 30,000 or £20 * 30,000).

Now think of yourself as a club finance director, that £300,000 difference is a lot, you could just about buy a Kris Commons for that!

If you factor in say 500 seats per season getting broken (500*£5) = £2500 for the cheap seats and 50 of the sturdy, expensive seats getting broken (50 * £10) = £500

£300,000/£2500 = 120, that’s 120 seasons before that £300,000 saved is used up!
But it’s not used up is it? The “vandals club” pay for it, if the “vandals club” are lucky the perpetrators are caught, banned from football stadiums and made to pay the costs of replacement and court costs. If they are like many and not wealthy they’ll pay a small amount per month for a few years at most – hardly seems fair does it?

Consider yourself as being on a clubs board, (leave aside your finance directors hat), the law, UEFA, SPFL, etc say your stadium has to be all seated. A cost/benefits analysis by the club directors would find cheap seats are the best option, (by £300k with the figures above), what’s more if visiting fans break any seats then you bill their club and you also get to play the innocent victim (you are the innocent victim, but hey play it up a bit – it’s your right), but you’ve saved £300,000 in doing so!

Do you remember the old Beach End at Pittodrie or New Kilbowie (R.I.P. Clydebank FC)? Concrete/brick pillars with long wooden benches bolted on to them. 

How easy where they to break? 

They weren’t! (Not that I ever tried, but I don’t remember any ever being broken).

Dens park’s old main stand was similar – without the concrete pillars.

I’m not sure on the H&S of the old wooden benches bolted on to concrete pillars and you can’t have the club/sponsor logo for publicity shots, there are no seat backs. It’s also a bit harder to identify where exactly people are seated, but did any club have the broken seat problem with them?

It’s a factor wholly ignored by the SMSM


Purely on cost grounds? 

There is also a question of stadium safety here.

If it’s so easy to break seats and then use them as missiles then should clubs be forced to use sturdier and much harder to break seats? If so who covers the costs?

Personally I always preferred standing at football as opposed to sitting, Scottish weather probably helped, sometimes the seats are wet and it’s a lot warmer standing in a crowd.

I understand the reasons for the all seated stadia, but I also feel there was a bit of a “knee-jerk reaction” to stadium disasters where people lost their life. Shocking and shameful as those disasters where, I think more time deliberating the causes (we are only know getting to the bottom of Hillsborough) of what would be safe alternatives should have occurred. I also don’t think enough football fans where consulted as to what they wanted, I have nothing to back that opinion up, and so I stand to be corrected. Individual pens to limit the amount of people “swaying about” (or lateral movement as the kids call it), effective crush barriers, good stewarding and policing would have been just as effective as all seated stadia as regards safety, in my opinion.

But the authorities want to be able to identify everyone, to weed out every trouble maker or those who don’t “toe the party line” e.g. political banners. CCTV cameras would still be usable to identify these people on a terracing, but in an all seated stadium it is much much easier to do so, so easy that the police could (if they wanted to) be waiting at their door for them coming home from the football!

Are all seated stadia purely about safety or is there an element of Big Brother attached to it? The CCTV and the police from FoCUS regularly filming people say it’s swung towards the Big Brother element, although I believe initially there was genuine concern for safety.

I feel it necessary to reiterate, I in no way condone the breaking of stadium seats. 

I would like the people who partake in such “activities” banned Sin Die from football.

There are other issues to consider here though, our game is skint, so the money to re-seat stadiums with sturdy hard to break seats is not there, it is a lot cheaper just to replace the broken ones.

What to do about it all?

Form a committee? Have an inquiry? Round up suspects and inter them on a football day (that be most days of the week)?

I honestly don’t know, but the SMSM will feast on it for a while yet, that’s one thing you can be sure of – it’s more certain than backing a heavy odds-on horse in a one horse race! 
(Had to get horse racing in there somewhere).