Until a new owner and manager walk through the gates of Villa Park, thinking about next season seems to have been put on ice. Considering our club’s plight though, it’s disturbing to think there is so little focus currently on next season for what should be a ‘by all means necessary’ promotion push.
At the recent Fans Consultation Group meeting with Villa chairman Steve Hollis & co, MOMS suggested two measures to focus attention on next season. One was a rebate to season ticket holders if the club failed to at least reach the Championship play-offs and the second was to sort out a section to help get behind the team’s promotion push.
‘Fight Like Lions’ Section
Such supporter sections have been a big success at clubs like Leicester City, Watford, Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Middlesborough, with even Manchester City and United have adopted such sections too to counter the increasing gentrification of football stadiums and help supporters actually get more involved and enjoy games.
Having been at the FA Cup semi-finals and seeing how Crystal Palace’s Holmesdale Fanatics were the focal point at Wembley in getting the Palace fans to raise the roof throughout the game (Watford fans too did a good job too), the knock-on effects of having supporters taking a responsibility to up the ante in terms of atmosphere was there for all to see.
To arrange that balcony section at Wembley for the Holmesdale Fanatics to lead the Palace end, is a fine example of a club and supporters working together. Villa need to finally take note and apply a ‘can do’ attitude.
A lot of football supporters like MOMS aren’t too keen on labels like ‘singing section’ or ‘flag section’, so surely it would be better to take a uniquely Villa approach to the idea and call it the ‘Fight Like Lions’ section.
After all, next season will all be out fighting to get back into the Premier League and hopefully with the section developing over next season, we’ll come back into the Premier League with a roar and a new dimension at Villa Park.
The mantra of ‘Fight Like Lions’ captured supporters imaginations and galvanised both the team and supporters on our FA Cup adventures last season on the way to a double-date at Wembley, so it has a good track record.
Essentially, it will be a section where flags and displays can happen and there can be 90-minute vocal support, which would help and focus atmosphere in light of proposed tier closure in the Trinity and redevelopment of the Lower North at Villa Park.
The club had been set to trial a ‘singing section’ in L7 & L8 last season in March, but the events of the FA Cup 1/4 final made them a little shy in communicating the idea and it caused unnecessary knock-on issues with supporters, that could have been avoided.
The time is NOW to sort it out properly. The club didn’t have a problem forcing season ticket migration in both the Trinity Upper or Lower North after deciding on changes there, so there’s no excuse not to make the necessary arrangements in that respect.
L8 of the Holte End. The area was chosen last season as part of the singing section and it has benefits in terms of future planning for safe standing, which is discussed below.
Why do we need such a section?
- Improve player-supporter relations
- Improve atmosphere and enjoyment at games – visually and vocally
- Give Lower North supporters a genuine destination to migrate to
- Prevent conflict between Holte fans over standing, flags, displays and noise
- 90 minutes of continuous team backing to change the recent toxic culture
- A section for our home fans to replicate the amazing spirit of our away fans
Villa Park only comes alive for the odd big game or derby, but to have at least one section replicating what our away fans do will certainly help matters and hopefully have a knock-on effect in getting supporters in surrounding areas of the ground to join in.
We have sections of stands for families, wheelchair fans and corporate guests, yet increasing gentrification of football stadiums in this country has tended to forget about the supporters who want to go above and beyond in their support for their team, yet not hinder other supporters. In German, Italian and Spanish stadiums, these fans are allowed to express themselves and the home atmospheres benefit as a result.
A ‘Fight Like Lions’ section could provide a home for fans who enjoyed the atmosphere of the Lower North, but were forced to migrate due to the wheelchair platform development, which will take out 7 of the 16 rows of the Lower North. With half the seats gone out of the Lower North, it plainly won’t be the same.
In the current absence of a safe standing area, why not have a section where fans (especially younger fans) can actually look forward to going to Villa Park to generate some atmosphere without hassle and recrimination. A section of the ground that might one-day transition to be the safe-standing area of Villa Park.
Safe Standing Transition
Aston Villa were the first Premier League club to out in support of safe standing and planning has been made for a trial section next to L8, in the L9 corner of the Holte and the Trinity Road stand, under the scoreboard.
Villa supporter Anne-Marie Fern carried out a supporter survey with 97.5% of respondents saying “yes” to safe standing. Likewise a Spurs supporter survey 95.1% and the club have also architect plans in place.
“The results show the majority of Villa fans surveyed do want to explore the idea of a safe-standing area and we are simply trying to get the debate moving. We hope other clubs will follow suit,” said the Villa CEO at the time, Paul Faulkner.
MOMS went to Parliament back in 2012 for a showcase and discussion with MPs to get the debate moving forward, but progress has been slow since, however there is light at the end of the tunnel with Celtic trialling 2,600 safe seating spots next season.
Also, the Hillsborough inquests were the sticking point, with campaigners and MPs wanting to be sensitive to the Hillsborough families. The reality is though safe standing has little connection to events at Hillsborough, as the courts have proved that was down to unlawful killing. Take away police incompetence and the fences, and there wouldn’t be an issue.
The rail seat design at the heart of safe standing, where everyone standing has their own barrier is completely different set up to who people would stand on the old terraces. For example, they’d be no sway like there used to be on the Holte or people trying to stay on their feet when Villa scored (although that was part of the fun).
Hopefully, Villa as a club can be pioneers in helping the Safe Standing campaign and bringing about change, because it will take clubs to push it through.
A ‘Fight Like Lions’ section would be a bridge to the improvement in atmosphere benefits Safe Standing would bring ala German stadiums, where it is successful.
Back to the ‘Fight like Lions’ section. It’s important for supporters to let the club know and also be involved in the planning for such a section.
It’s also time for supporters to get serious about dealing with this shocking home form problem that has seriously haunted the club in recent seasons. We can have a role to play in addressing this.
If you’re interested in getting involved in such a ‘Fight Like Lions’ section drop us an email or DM on Twitter/FB and vote in the above poll.