‘Let’s all do the Poznan’ – but only when it’s safe to stand?

It’s not very fashionable to be a Manchester ‘Citeh’ fan these days. They have become the new ‘Chelski’ if you haven’t already heard? However it appears a new fashionable postmodern pastiche has begun to penetrate around Manchester City’s home stadium, titled ‘the Poznan’. In their 2010/2011 Europa League group tie against the Polish side Lech Poznan, City supporters whilst sat quietly in their sterile, soulless post-Thatcher stadium, were treated to the delight of an away support who decided to use the tie to show the English, ‘how it’s really done in Europe’. During the match, the Poznan fans decided to redefine the society of the spectacle, by collectively turning their backs to the pitch, placing their arms over each supporter at either side, before proceeding to jump up and down in a crazed manner. And at that very moment, a special relationship between the two sets of supporters was formed.
Ever since that cold Tuesday back in October, City fans have greeted every goal scored by a City player in domestic competition, with a tongue in cheek imitation of the Lech Poznan style. This perhaps reflects the postmodern culture of football goal celebrations during lat.e modernity, where in many cases, individual goal scorers have shifted their interest from a concern with the ultimate ends of scoring a goal and restarting the game as soon as possible, to a pragmatic concern relating to the optimal performance of celebration. And as these goal celebrations become commodified, so too has the ‘Poznan’.
Or perhaps the real significance of the ‘Poznan’ at City, has been the ability to generate a new sense of optimism and experience which according to many football supporters, has been lost since the introduction of all-seater stadiums, post-Hillsborough and the Taylor report commissioned by the then Conservative government. The City supporter community has embraced this new culture as an opportunity, through the advancement of interactive social media technology, to bring everyone together through a more playful match day experience. However, the pressing question is, how long will it be, before the authorities investigate the new Poznan dance as a potential example of dangerous standing, with an increased risk to supporter safety.
The UK Football Supporter Federation’s ‘Safe Standing Campaign’ backed by thousands of supporters across the country and building on research of existing ‘safe standing’ case studies in Europe, calls for a change in the rules so that all UK clubs are able to provide Safe Standing areas if they wish to do so. The debate is back on the football agenda again after the Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster tabled a private members bill on the issue back in December 2010 and the now coalition government promising that they will listen to the case and examine the evidence. It is important to note, the FSF are not calling for all stadiums to have all safe standing areas, rather that clubs themselves, with supporter consultancy, should have the right to implement it in certain parts of the stadium, thus allowing those who want to stand safely to do so, whilst also catering for those who wish to remain seated.
Of course understandably, any discussion on the issue of ‘standing’ at football matches raises the tragic Hillsborough disaster of 15th April in 1989 and the deaths of 96 football supporters. The Safe Standing campaign however, is not calling for a return to the old fashioned poorly designed terraces of the 70’s and 80’s. Furthermore, it acknowledges the findings of the Taylor Report into the Hillsborough disaster, and particularly notes the conclusion, that standing itself, is not intrinsically unsafe. On the issue of all seater stadia, the FSF and others suggest that many football supporters currently spend large parts of the game stood up, and that this is in fact extremely unsafe due to seating.
Many fans will claim the introduction of all seater stadia has made the experience of watching football much safer, whilst others will complain it has led to ticket price increases, a lack of atmosphere and changes in football fan demographics. It might be the case, that should the campaign be unsuccessful, ultimately it will not be because of a threat to individual safety, rather the football authorities and clubs reluctance to implement it due to cost and a perception that it will lead to weaker crowd control capabilities.

So the ‘Poznan’ is here to stay for now. You might see it performed artistically at the forthcoming Manchester City vs. Manchester United FA Cup semi final on April 16th. Or what you might see however, is an extreme case and interpretation of unsafe ‘seating’.

Mark Turner – Sport Studies

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About Mike Hartill

Mike joined Edge Hill in 2001 and is senior lecturer in the sociology of sport. He is particularly interested in issues of child abuse, child protection and gender. Mike sits on the English Child Protection in Sport Research and Evidence Advisory Group (REAG, 2003-date), in association with the NSPCC-Sport England Child Protection in Sport Unit. Mike has published journal articles and book chapters on the topic of child abuse in sport as well as regularly presenting at international conferences. He is currently engaged in a range of international research projects aimed at the prevention of sexual violence in European sport and the evaluation of child protection policy in UK sport. In particular, he is leading the UK implementation for the project ‘Youth Sport stands up for Youth Rights’ which aims to empower young Europeans in sports to combat sexualized violence and gender harassment through youth-led campaigns. In 2013 Mike is co-editing a Routledge book ‘Safeguarding, Protection and Abuse in Sport: International Perspectives in Research, Policy and Practice’ with Edge Hill colleague Melanie Lang.

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