IT maybe wishful thinking on my part that some of you noticed the absence of my column last Tuesday.
For anyone that did notice, I was on a mini break to Holland and Germany to experience some football matches there, and I have to report back that the atmosphere, match experience and facilities are superb - so good in fact that the FA, Premier League and the Football League should contemplate a few changes to the way they regulate football stadia in England.
Along with Evening News hacks Steven Hugill and Ian Johnson, and another friend James Wainwright, I went to watch NAC Breda take on Roda JC at the Rat Verleigh Stadion, before ambling into Germany to watch Armenia Bielefeld v Carl Zeiss Jena at the Schuco Arena (above) and Fortuna Dusseldorf v Union Berlin at the hugely impressive Esprit Arena (below).
Of the three stadiums, the Esprit Arena impressed me the most. A modern stadium, built in 2004, that still retains a standing section which obviously resulted in a great atmosphere despite the game not being anywhere near a sell-out.
The addition of a number of drums, flares, flags and banners all made the matchday experience and atmosphere even better.
The fact that the Esprit’s capacity was 51,000 before being increased due to the standing section being introduced just goes to show that top-class stadiums like Old Trafford, the Emirates, Wembley or the Etihad could all be adapted to hold standing areas.
Ridiculous Health and Safety regulations here restrict almost everything you can think of from being taken into a football stadium.
The regulations at the new Wembley are absurd. Their website states that the following aren’t permitted in the ground: ‘Unlicensed musical instruments: trumpets, drums and other devices capable of causing a disturbance or nuisance.’
What a total and utter joke. This country has all of a sudden decided that everything is dangerous - everyone must have heard the phrase - Health and Safety has gone mad.
The website also bans scooters, skateboards or other skates, poles and any article that might be used as a weapon and/or compromise public safety and flares, among other bizarre items.
These regulations are probably what is stopping clubs re-introducing standing areas. Tickets could be more affordable to fans and would also increase capacity and improve the atmosphere at games over here. Can’t see it happening though. We are now a nation obsessed with Health and Safety.