Up in the Gods

You know those away trips to stadiums like St James Park, where you end up in the gods, needing binoculars to make out the action? Well, from next season, the Premier League is introducing a rule where away fans must be provided with a pitchside allocation.

The Football Supporter Federation have lobbied the Premier League in recent years to have more away fans pitchside and it’s paid off.

For the 2017 Premier League season clubs must provide at least one block of pitchside seating to visiting supporters.With responsibility for away fans being shared between clubs, the Premier League says that a collective initiative to protect their status is necessary.

Of the 20 current Premier League teams, only Sunderland do not include any pitchside seats for away fans, although, as mentioned, Newcastle’s St James Park is notorious for putting away fans almost into orbit. You’d expect the Geordies to be in the top tier next season, when the new rule comes in.

Atmos

The Premier League are always conscious of ‘the product’ of English football needing to be attractive to oversea’s TV markets, so they have tended to be supportive of away fan initiatives, due to the contribution travelling supporters make to a game’s overall atmosphere.

FSF chief executive Kevin Miles said: “”Placing away fans up in the gods may appear to give home teams a competitive advantage, but often in reality this kills the atmosphere for everyone on matchday, this is why we’ve been lobbying for such a rule to be introduced. We’re pleased to see this step taken.”

While you can understand home clubs trying to move away fans into a place they have as little as possible influence on the game – Martin O’Neill instructed the move of away fans from behind the goal of the Lower North end to the Witton Lane Stand (Doug Ellis) – the bigger issue of improving sterile atmospheres in English stadiums is becoming a greater concern.

Interestingly, when you look at some of the away teams that visit Villa Park, that don’t bring a lot of travelling fans, they tend to take the Upper tier in the away area and leave the pitchside lower tier empty. A case in point being Blackburn Rovers in Villa’s last home game.

If Aston Villa can achieve promotion this season from the Championship, Villa fans will get to enjoy the improving conditions that are being implemented for away fans in England’s top tier.

Villans have already had to miss out on the £30 away ticket cap in the Premier League, so the timing of our relegation hasn’t been ideal.

UTV

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