Occasionally MOMS gets asked by Villa supporters what’s the club’s policy on displaying banners and flags at games at Villa Park.
The rule of thumb is as long as you’re aware of other supporters at the game, communicate with stewards and don’t compromise stairwells and exits, you should be fine.
Obviously, you have to use common sense, larger banners will need communicating to the club and also need fire safety certificates, but if all this consideration is in place, the club should be fairly amenable. For example, while the FA were a pain over the MOMS Sex Pistols inspired 20 metre x 20 metre surfer flag (pic above) for the FA Cup final, the club allowed it on the Holte End for a league game.
The Football Supporters Federation (FSF) have previously reached out to all league clubs to collate every club’s stance on banners. In collecting the info they asked each club the same five questions related to bringing in banners into their stadiums.
- Do you allow banners in the home & away ends?
- At what size banner do you insist on a fire safety certificate? Are banners on poles allowed?
- If a fan plans to bring a banner into your ground what protocol should they follow?
- Does your club ban certain banners/messages? If so please clarify what falls into that category.
- Anything else you’d like to add?
Originally, away fans were banned from having any flags or banners in the away section at Villa Park. The club felt that such a zero tolerance to the issue would make it clear to travelling supporters and simplify things.
Such a kill joy spirit is hardly ideal though. Also, there is the wider realisation that away fans are increasingly noted for driving atmospheres at games, as we well know from Villa’s own away following. So why curb this?
So, it is good to see that the club seem to have recently relaxed and updated their approach to away flags and banners in an update on the FSF website. Here’s the entry:
Aston Villa (didn’t answer specific questions but did reply):
- “For home supporters there are no obvious areas for banners to be displayed. Please consult with us in advance prior to bringing any banner to the stadium so we can approve its use, by emailing [email protected] at least three days prior to any match. We would always ask that fans be mindful of the matchday experience of other Villa fans when considering the use of banners. We would also ask that banners focus on support for the Villa.
- “For away supporters, we are happy to try and help the displaying of your flag and/or banner at Villa Park within the away area at Villa Park. Please email a photograph of your flag and/or banner to [email protected] at least three days prior to your visit. We reserve the right to refuse admission to any flag or banner. Please get in touch in advance so we can confirm arrangements and avoid disappointing you on the day of the match.”
The Way Forward
MOMS has long supported the idea of having a specific section for flags and displays to help create a unique atmosphere from match-to-match and also drive support of the team through 90 minutes.
The problem is while some quarters of the club were originally open to this, the realisation of it has been poor and mismanaged.
It was the marketing department at the club that had previously announced back in March 2015 that L7 & L8 of the Holte End would be a ‘singing section’ aka a section where flags and banners could be used, so they wouldn’t get in the way of other fans.
However, what they failed to realise was it would take more than a brief mention in a Tim Sherwood interview on the official site to announce it. The realisation of it wasn’t communicated properly to fans in the blocks of L7 & L8 and it caused unnecessary knock-on issues ((including bans and flags being made unwelcome) with supporters who wanted to utilise such a section.
Despite good intentions, the club suffered from not having a specific person or department to facilitate such a section. Certainly a marketing department isn’t fitting to organise such an initiative.
Having such a section properly organised can only benefit the team and club. By declaring such a section, it also circumnavigates the moaners to flags and the like. In the past, the club have tended to prefer to listen to any naysayers and conclude there is no appetite for initiatives to improve the atmosphere at Villa Park.
This is despite the backdrop of perhaps the worst losing mentality at Villa Park in the club’s history and supporters being motivated in trying to take positive steps to lift it.
In a poll MOMS did two years ago, only 3% of Villa supporters said the atmosphere at Villa Park was fine as it is. No appetite, indeed.
Managers on Board With Fans
In recent times, even Villa managers such as Paul Lambert and Tim Sherwood have echoed supporter wishes for a more visual and vibrant support.
As MOMS reported previously, Lambert specifically highlighted how the Holte could be.
“The Holte End could be like the Yellow Wall,” Lambert said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph.
“The Holte End holds close to 14,000. That Dortmund end holds 26,000, fewer when the seats are in (for Europe). You want an end like that, [with] flags and everything.”
While Villa have regressed and have since closed the tier of one of its main stands, other clubs have successfully been progressive in improving home match day atmospheres.
The likes of Leicester City, Watford, Manchester City and this season Newcastle United have increasingly allowed their fans to introduce flags and banners to boost the spectacle of their home games. Which also adds more fun and commitment for fans – especially to a younger generation – in supporting their team.
Many fans who used to make displays for the Holte End, now don’t bother going to Villa Park due to the constant hassle they received from the club. It’s a shame, because it could have been avoided in the first place, with proper planning and communication.
Contrast Villa having to close a tier of a stand at Villa Park to Newcastle taking more of a progressive approach and reaping the rewards of full houses and scenes like in the above picture, despite being in the Championship.
In MOMS’ opinion, Villa certainly missed a few tricks in preseason in trying to boldly rally its supporters behind a promotion push (with price reductions/initiatives, setting up aforementioned section etc) and making them feel more involved on match days.
Safe Standing Transition
Also, having a section in say L8 & L9 of the Holte End would also create a perfect transition to safe standing. Currently, plans exist for L9 (in front of the scoreboard) to be converted to a safe standing trial area. So, why not in the meantime create a section there for flags and vocal support – we previously labelled it a ‘Fight Like Lions’ section to avoid the unfortunate ‘Singing Section’ moniker.
Then when the safe standing trial becomes a reality, you would have a group of supporters used to flags, displays and being more vocally active to seamlessly utilise the section to full effect. It would be better than just a bunch of supporters coming in cold and just standing there.
Obviously, it’s up to Villa supporters to show both an appetite and the ideas to add vibrancy to Villa Park. If they do, hopefully the new regime at the club will be embracing and give serious thought and planning into not missing a trick again in making Villa Park a spectacular sight once more.
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