The results of the recent Stand up for Choice survey could not have been clearer… 94 per cent of football fans believe they should have the option to choose the type of matchday experience they want – whether that be seated or standing in licensed areas.
The EFL and FSF’s ‘Stand up for Choice’ campaign received over 33,000 responses in less than two weeks, with the feelings amongst supporters now well-known ahead of the standing debate to be held at Westminster later this month.
However, it is not just supporters of EFL clubs in favour of pursuing a change to the current legislation. It is a debate that has gained the attention of many stakeholders across the footballing landscape, and that includes Exeter City’s Chairman, Julian Tagg.
“We’re very fortunate to be able to offer supporters that choice already and it is quite obvious that many of the fans are really in favour of it. It also reduces the cost for supporters and increases the numbers we can get into the ground, so it is fantastic for us as well,” Julian said.
“It helps with the economy of the club, and on any number of levels that standing area is significant for us and importantly there is that choice for supporters.
“We’ve had some wonderful games at Exeter City, against Manchester United and Liverpool back in the day. People talk about the ‘Kop’ and it is almost our own ‘Kop’ really. The atmosphere is just something to be experienced.
“If you ask any Exeter City fan, or travelling fan for that matter, I’m sure they will have fond memories. If it is fans visiting for the first time or just getting into football that is the bit they will remember and feel and that is what you want in your stadium. It will keep the crowds coming.”
A more than appropriate name, Exeter City is home to one of the largest standing areas in English football – The Big Bank.
With a reputation of being one of the loudest and most buoyant stands on an EFL matchday, the Big Bank is a covered standing-only terrace with a capacity of approximately 4,000. Located behind the goal, the stand is one of the main attractions at St James Park and steeped into the history of Exeter City Football Club.
“The Big Bank is a fantastic area and the atmosphere there is quite terrific. We’ve got an excellent Safety Advisory Group and Safety Officer and they take it very seriously – it is one of the biggest standing areas in the EFL after all.
“We’ve never had any problems with that and certainly the feedback from the fans is terrific, especially during the bigger games where you can get that many people together. So many people want to watch their football like that.
“Of course some people would prefer to sit, but so many of our fans like that standing area and we’re very proud of it.”
Under current legislation, were Exeter City to move up the Sky Bet EFL, the Big Bank would have to be altered to all-seating within three years. It is something that could have serious financial implications on a number of EFL clubs, including Exeter.
“It would have a huge financial impact because it would reduce the number of supporters able to attend. We already have a very tight ground in that aspect and it is not something we can expand any further.
“It would be hugely detrimental to us financially, but also to the experience the fans are getting. I would be very keen to avoid that situation.”
The EFL is continuing to work with the FSF and relevant stakeholders ahead of the Westminster Hall debate on Monday 25 June to highlight the benefits of choice.