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  • I’ve been holding out publishing this for a few months. Not knowing whether any time would be relevant or – more importantly – appropriate for such an article. Now, learning of the vindication of the 96, the campaigners and the people of our city as a whole it finally seems fitting. We should be immensely proud of everyone who fought for this verdict and continue to pour scorn on those that allowed the city and its people to wait 27 years for the truth to come out. #JFT69

We’re now well under the Klopp era – progress on the pitch is becoming visible as is hope in the stands, seats are emptying at a slower rate towards the end of a match – after Klopp rightfully berated those that left – and songs are being sung all around the stadium not just in the rafters of The Kop. Even with all this progress, the famed atmosphere at Anfield remains but a fable.

In light of Liverpool’s highly fortuitous win against Borussia Dortmund, Paul Smith of the Guardian noted the often sketchy atmosphere of the Anfield crowd. On a night such as the Dortmund game, the Anfield crowd is a true spectacle. Personally I struggle to find a comparable experience apart from maybe a Glastonbury headliner. For every highly-charged, 12th man style European night in Liverpool there are at least 20 sad sack league games where the fans just don’t turn up. Whilst not a season ticket holder, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend about 10-15 a season for the past 4 or so seasons and I’ve lost count of the amount of times the 40-odd thousand strong crowd has been out sung by the 2,000 or 3,000 visiting fans.

What can be done about it?
One solution to try stop this slippery slope towards the complete demise of stadia culture and atmosphere could be to adopt safe standing. Already popular in our manager’s native land – a league known for its boisterous and atmospheric crowds – could it be the solution here?

For Liverpool FC fans and many of the city’s residents this has been a no-go area and as a whole the city has been one of the most vocal critics of the movement for safe standing, but – put bluntly – this smacks of hypocrisy. The Hillsborough defence often cited by critics of safe standing is somewhat valiant and comes from a decent place, but it’s simply not a strong argument. In fact, it’s quite disrespectful to those who died in 1989.

It’s no secret to regulars at Anfield (as well as visiting fans, pub goers and even those watching their dodgy stream in their bedroom) that The Kop is regularly stood up for the whole game anyway. So for the same fans to harp on about how we shouldn’t have safe standing in the upper leagues is at best, embarrassing and at worst, downright insulting to the 96.

We’ve known for several years that:

  • Liverpool fans had no part to play in those deaths in Sheffield
  • The police were to blame for their deaths (and now know that their actions actively killed many of the 96)
  • Only 1 of 44 ambulances waiting were allowed into the ground – again the police’s fault
  • There was insufficient observation, control and manpower;
    • At the gates
    • Monitoring capacity
  • Penning is just ridiculous*

To blame standing for the death of the 96 is not only disrespectful to the dead but even more so to the survivors and the campaigners who have spent the subsequent years fighting for the truth to be revealed and not just The S*n’s ‘Truth’.

Even if you remain adamant that the old terraces were the sole cause of death, in spite of the large swathes of conflicting evidence, the argument also belittles the newer, far more secure standing options being spoken about today. It’s not for me to list out the specifications as there are people who are doing a far better job of doing than I ever could, most notably these guys.

Why Safe Standing then?

I don’t want to go as far as to say safe standing is the solution to the often drab atmosphere at Anfield. I don’t want to commit to saying it’s causation that the most passionate away fans stand the whole game as well as large swathes of The Kop. But it is an option that should be discussed. Alas, what other options do we have? I hear Chelsea FC know a guy who can make some great flags for us or perhaps we could split up the singing fans from The Kop and move them to carefully chosen points across the stadium a la Old Trafford?

Cost is another thing worth considering with safe standing. Numbers could be increased at grounds across the UK (within reason, of course). This should – in theory – meaning cheaper tickets for younger fans. The cynic in me would argue that would never happen in this current climate but the cynic in me thought that the 77 minute protest would have no effect and it has.

In Klopp – as with Benitez before him – we seem to have a manager who gives a damn about the fans as much as the players and team. He got involved quickly with the pricing issue and helped rectify it even quicker. He understands that fans make a game. He’s the first to congratulate the fans when they support through thick and thin but also – after only a few weeks – willing to call us out when we leave early. Many across the country scoffed when he thanked The Kop for their support during the West Brom game but most of us here saw it for what it was, an attempt to create a stronger bond between fan and player. This is something that he did quite regularly at Dortmund & Mainz prior, could it finally be worth considering other elements of the German game, including Safe Standing?

The movement is continually growing, with or without Liverpool, so wouldn’t it make sense for the club with the most concerns over the issue to have a seat at the table and ensure that it’s a safe as it could be?

*Although that’s probably more a personal one considering it seems to work in parts of Europe.