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A terrace or terracing in sporting terms refers to the traditional standing area of a sports stadium, particularly in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland. A terrace is a series of concrete steps which are erected for spectators to stand on.
Its significance carries particular importance in football where terraces were located in the areas behind the two goals as a cheaper alternative to sitting in the stands, which were traditionally located at the sides of the field. Naturally the price of standing in the terraces was much cheaper than a seat with the result that over the decades they became the most popular spectators' area for younger working class men and teenage boys to watch the game.
Due to safety concerns related to terraces, they have fallen out of favour in many places. Terraces were banned from major football grounds in England in the early 1990s, as a result of the Hillsborough disaster, are currently not used during major tournaments, and for a long time were generally not included in new stadium designs. There is currently a growing demand for a reintroduction of terracing, based on the modern stadia designs in Germany and other European countries, dubbed "safe-standing" areas.
In Ireland, terraces are still a common feature in gaelic football, hurling, camogie, rugby union, soccer and other sports. Terraces in Ireland were generally not subject to the same level of violence as those in the United Kingdom, nor were they subject to crowd segregation (with the exception of, occasionally, football) or the Taylor Report as British terraces were, so terraces remained a common feature in Irish stadia. Hill 16 in Croke Park is one of the most notable terraces in Ireland.
Terraces have been built or refurbished in ground improvements at many stadia in recent years, including Thomond Park, Croke Park and Flancare Park (since converted to all-seater); although all new League of Ireland stands built since Flancare's redevelopment have happened to be all-seater.
In the early days of the twentieth century the terraces were simply earth banks, often built up with the rubble of construction sites. Rows of railways sleepers were laid on top to provide something solid for spectators to stand on.
Most stadiums in Britain at the turn of the century had bleachers for spectators, but when a wooden bleacher style terrace at Ibrox Park collapsed in the 1902 Ibrox disaster killing many spectators during a Scotland versus England game there was an instant ban on framework supported terraces, which the government ordered must be replaced by solid earthwork supported terracing.
The earth and sleeper terraces would gradually make way for concrete terraces with metal crush barriers being erected at various points to prevent crushing. An excellent example of one such old style terrace can be found at Cathkin Park in Glasgow, an abandoned football stadium, which was home to Third Lanark.
The terraces were hugely popular in England, particularly from the 1920s to the 1980s, and their working class links led them to be given affectionate names by the fans who stood on them. By far the most common name was Spion Kop, named after the Battle of Spion Kop in the Boer War in South Africa in 1902 between Britain and the Boers. Arsenal F.C. were the first to adopt such a name but by far the most famous was the Kop at Liverpool F.C.'s Anfield Road ground. The vast majority of clubs in England and farther afield would go on to regard their most popular end of their stadium as a Kop, even if, in most cases the end had another name, for example the Holte End at Aston Villa F.C.'s Villa Park. The most notable exception to this is Everton F.C., whose close rivalry with city neighbours Liverpool has meant that neither the club nor its fans would ever refer to the ground as having a Kop section.
The advantage of terracing over seating for clubs was obvious, as many more fans could be packed in tightly into very cramped areas, and it is no coincidence that many clubs' all-time attendance records were set in the 1930s and 40s.
Terraces were generally a safe, cheap and enjoyable way to watch sport, but on occasion they could be dangerous too.
In the early days the wet railway sleepers would often lead to falls, which quickly led to their replacement but much worse was to follow when thirty-three people lost their lives in 1946 when an overcrowded terrace led to a crush at Bolton Wanderers F.C.'s Burnden Park ground. That such a disaster only occurred once during this era is amazing as it was common in those days to see a fainted fan being passed down the terraces over the heads of those packed in so they could be treated for their ill effects.
By the 1970s the lower cost of travel meant it was easier for fans to have away days, or road trips and a common practice among young visiting fans was to try to "take the terrace". Large bodies of supporters of the visiting team would infiltrate the popular terracing of the home supporters with the result that violence often erupted. This led to crowd segregation at football grounds and also played a small part in the erection of high fencing and segregated pens within most terraces in England.
These pens became a contributing factor in the Hillsborough disaster, England's worst ever stadium disaster, when too many fans entered the central pens at the Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield. 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death in the resultant crush.
Although claiming that terraces were not "intrinsically unsafe", the final Taylor Report into the disaster led to a recommendation that terraces be done away with at major British stadiums. Today every major British football ground is all-seater, though terracing is still found at grounds in the lower leagues. Britain's biggest remaining terraced ground is Brunton Park in Carlisle, which still has three sides of terracing.
It has been argued that terraces encourage crowd disorder. However, analysis of statistics on football related arrests and banning orders published by the UK Home Office show that in both the 2008/9 and 2009/10 seasons the rate of arrest per 100,000 supporters was higher at Football League One and Football League Two clubs with all-seated grounds than at those with terraces. Overall arrest rates for football related offences have fallen steadily from 34 per 100,000 in 1988/89 to 9 per 100,000 in 2009/10, however the trend of reducing arrests started before stadia were required to become all-seated and has continued since.
In 2011 the Scottish Premier League announced that their clubs would be given permission to introduce safe standing areas at their grounds. In 2012, Aston Villa announced they would be looking to install safe standing areas in Villa Park in time for the 2013–14 season. In that same year, Derby County became the first club from the Championship to support the introduction of safe standing areas, although the only terraced standing areas in the Championship and/or Barclays Premiership at that time could be found at London Road, home to Peterborough United. Peterborough United became the second Championship club to back the safe standing campaign through their CEO Bob Symns. Symns also signed the safe standing petition. Indeed, the club's mascot – Peter Burrow – took part in a video campaign promoting safe standing, with the video being shot at the AWD-Arena, home to Hannover 96 in Germany
Terracing was introduced to American football with the inclusion of party decks with the ability to hold 35,000 people at Cowboys Stadium in the Dallas suburb of Arlington, Texas. Capacity for Dallas Cowboys games and other American football events is 80,000 seated, expandable to 111,000 with standing areas. However, it should be noted that these decks are flat, rather than steeply pitched, and are more analogous to standing-room only ticketing where obstruction is expected. The key difference is that unlike at European grounds, party decks are not considered or marketed as areas from which all spectators are afforded a view of the match at all times.
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