After the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, the government’s Taylor Report, which summed up the findings of the investigation into that horrible day, decreed that all First Division clubs (later rebranded as the Premier League) were required to make their stadia all-seated by 1994, removing standing areas and ostensibly making them safer.
An unintended consequence of that, though, is that it led to what many believe is a sterilization of the match day experience - all seated stadia meant that teams could and would charge more for those seats, which led to many people being priced out of going to matches. It also led to overzealous ushering in the stadium, as any time a fan or group of fans stood up, they were required to sit or risk ejection. That has relaxed a little bit in some places, but standing is no longer the norm at any Premier League ground.
It’s overly simplistic to say that seated stadia destroyed The Soul Of The Game, but it did change the game from a fan perspective pretty dramatically. A large contingent of people, however, never gave up the pursuit of, at the very least, dialogue with the clubs and the Premier League about allowing some areas of every stadium to stand.
The one nice thing about this effort taking so long is that, while all this conversation was going on, technology was catching up. The development of a style of seat that allows for safe standing but also provides a seat if required was a huge step forward in reassuring leagues and governments that it is possible to have a standing area and not be unsafe.
That dialogue is seemingly starting to bear some fruit; after Celtic introduced a standing area at Celtic Park this season, the Premier League has agreed to formally discuss the idea of introducing standing areas in League stadia. In 2013, 19 of the 20 Premier League clubs surveyed seemed to be, if not in favor of it, at least open to discussing it; Liverpool, somewhat obviously, was not, but even that has changed slightly to the point where they’re willing to discuss it.
I don’t believe that introducing safe standing areas will magically restore all the best parts of the atmosphere of the 70’s and 80’s (without, hopefully, the bags of piss), but I do think that introducing a standing area will make things a little more lively at grounds, because it will give people who want to be a little more vocal than today’s typical Premier League fan an avenue for doing just that.