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As Celtic fans we’re incredibly proud of the unique incredible atmosphere that’s generated at Celtic Park, and rightly so.
The list of top players who’ve named it the best stadium they’ve played at reads as a who’s who of footballing superstars.
Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paolo Maldini, Xavi Hernandez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and countless others have all spoken of the electric atmosphere they’ve experienced at Celtic Park over the years.
But are we about to see some dramatic changes to the stadium in an effort to boost that atmosphere even further?
A New Safe Standing Initiative
In recent days we’ve seen the launch of a fan led initiative that aims to dramatically increase the ‘safe standing’ areas within the stadium in a move that will see us follow in the footsteps of a number of clubs across Europe.
“The Celtic End” campaign is being driven primarily by supporters’ groups The Green Brigade, North Curve Celtic, Celtic Shared and Bhoys Celtic.
Now known as The Jock Stein Stand, ‘The Celtic End’ was formerly an all standing area behind the goals at the west side of Celtic Park and many of us have fond memories of matchdays spent there before the modernisation of the stadium under Fergus McCann in the mid to late 90’s.
The proposal would see the seating in the lower tier of The Jock Stein stand replaced with a safe standing area similar to what we currently have in place in the north-east corner of the ground.
It’s an ambitious plan but one which has got many fans talking about the positive impact it could have on the matchday experience.
You can learn more about the project here and fans currently seated in the Jock Stein Lower have also been encouraged to comment and engage with the project via the form at the bottom of the site’s homepage.
As you’d expect the campaign has provoked a wide range of responses online and in doing so has highlighted a number of the pros and cons of getting such a project off the ground.
The obvious upside – and the aim of the campaign overall – is an increased vibrancy on matchdays, as witnessed in such arenas as Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion (and the famous “Yellow Wall”) and in various grounds across Italy’s Serie A.
But what are the logistics of turning such a vision into a reality at Celtic Park?
The first stumbling block may be the many season ticket holders currently housed in the Jock Stein stand who simply don’t want to stand throughout the game, nor do they want to move to another area of the stadium.
Many will likely have sat there since the redevelopment of the stadium with friends, family or even loved ones over the years who have since passed.
That emotional tie someone may have to their seat may be a tricky landscape to cover.
Challenges such as these are not insurmountable. But they’re challenges all the same.
Into the bargain there may also be fans who are unable physically to stand for the duration of a game of football.
Beyond that there’s also the practicalities of what it may cost to make such notable changes to the stadium, as well as the feasibility from an architectural and engineering point of view.
The current safe standing section houses approximately 2,700 fans.
The proposed new section would house more than double that amount in the Jock Stein Lower at around 7,500 fans.
From a hospitality point of view, Celtic’s No.7 restaurant is located at the rear of the Jock Stein Lower and a number of the associated seats are situated in a central location outside this area.
Whilst not an area most of us will sit in on a regular basis it’s an area of the stadium which drives notable revenues for the club and again a solution would have to be found should this be impacted.
‘The Celtic End’ is an exciting project, but it’s also something which will require a great deal of thought and problem solving should it come to fruition.
As mentioned, 2,700 fans already enjoy safe standing at Celtic Park with the promotional video stating that a similar number are currently on a waiting list.
The suggestion is that “it’s likely that far more would take up the option once it presents itself” and with the club about to embark on a widespread census of Celtic fans in the coming months we may get an accurate handle in the relatively short term on just how many supporters are in favour of the project.
At this stage we don’t have any official response from the club on the proposal and it remains to be seen whether there’s an appetite from the powers that be to proceed with such an undertaking.
At it’s heart the aim is to improve the experience at Celtic Park for all supporters, and in principle that’s something we can all get behind.
We discuss ‘The Celtic End’ initiative in detail in the latest episode of The Celtic Exchange Weekly.
Listen now wherever you get your podcasts or here at The Celtic Exchange website.