It will be no surprise to regular readers of my blog to hear that I was at Royal Birkdale today. Another fantastic day at the 146th Open Championship. Hugely gratifyingly, my father-in-law – my companion today – described it as “the best day he’s had at a sporting event”.
It was an historic day too with the first ever 62 in the history of golf’s majors carded. Something that will take some beating, even if there are another 146 Open championships. For me this was day seven of eight and was as exciting and fresh as day one. It has been a truly wonderful week and a complete and total pleasure to be so immersed in it. The prospect of it being another nine years until these scenes return to this parish, meant I wanted to make the most of it – I have definitely done that.
Despite the captivating golf my thoughts drifted the twenty-five miles out the coast to Liverpool where supporters of the Mighty Reds got together to discuss the issue of safe standing. Rightly, the club has described this as “uniquely complex and difficult” issue for us all. The law currently forbids standing at premier league games following the loss of our 96 brothers and sisters 28 years ago and the subsequent Taylor Report which introduced all seater stadia. As a point of fact, those we lost were killed unlawfully not because they stood up at a match. But it is not as simple as that. It is not a question of science or safety. It is not a matter for the head. It is a question of emotion. It is about the heart.
Those of us brought up in football in the days before standing was outlawed know that the atmosphere cannot be compared. When we lost standing terraces we lost some of what made football special. We lost some of our soul – some of the link to the working class roots of the game that are now an almost distant memory.
But, those of use who were at Anfield the night we played Nottingham Forest – coincidentally the team we played on that fateful, life-changing day in Sheffield – on 10 May, our first home game after Hillsborough will never forget looking at the Kop and seeing gaps and spaces where are fallen once stood or their families and friends had stayed away – perhaps they couldn’t face being back so soon or at all. Our next door neighbour in the Main Stand – Kevin – with whom we had the best craic every week – didn’t come that night or ever again. It was chilling. It was another dagger in our hearts. That image of the crestfallen Kop is seared on my memory.
However, this is one of those moments that my own views – strong though they are – I find it hard to imagine ever wanting to stand again at a football match – do not matter. My view and that of my club should be shaped entirely by the view of the Hillsborough families. In the battle between heart and head I defer to them and them alone. As with so many things, they are all that matter now. I await their verdict.
Photo taken from BBC sport website – http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/40693139