After Philly, Time to Fix Visiting Fan Seating

It has been over a week since the dismal performance by the Minnesota Vikings in Philadelphia in the NFC Conference Championship.

And while most have moved on from the team’s performance, one of the stories that has been living its media shelf life is the behavior of Eagles fans.

Multiple stories have come out from Vikings fans telling stories of the vulgar language in and around Lincoln Financial Field. While it is fair for some good-natured jabs to come from the home team toward the visitors, this occasionally crossed the line.

It got so bad that some fans “were thinking about changing our names to (expletive) and (expletive) because we’d been called that so many times,” Vikings season ticket-holder Chuck Hofius said to The Forum.

Thankfully, some Eagles fans took it upon themselves to prove that some of the fanbase is good and donated money to Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer’s charity.

But while the stories come out, there have not been any calls to make a change to help ease the issues. This is odd considering that there is a pretty obvious answer that no one has brought up.

Maybe it is time for the NFL to take a look at seating segregation.

The concept here is simple: each stadium has a section dedicated to away fans and away fans only. This idea has already been implemented and refined for soccer games around the world.

Visiting fans get to go through a designated entrance and all sit in a specific area in the stadium. This allows for security to be concentrated in one spot rather than all over the stadium. Watching a Premier League game on TV, it is very obvious to see where the visitor’s section is, as it is often lined with security guards in the aisle.

It got to the point that when Arsenal hosted the German side FC Köln, the match was delayed as German fans without tickets tried to get into the stadium. Köln was given 3,000 tickets in the Emirates Stadium, but 20,000 journeyed to London.

“Many Arsenal fans were shocked to find Cologne supporters in sections that are usually exclusively populated by home fans. This, as much as anything, created fear and panic in the stands of the Emirates,” ESPN’s Tony Evans noted.

How big of an issue is it that visiting fans sat among the home supporters? Not much, but there is still an expected response. “I’ve been at a match when I was sat in the wrong end,” Manchester United fan Steve James said in a New York Times article. “The stewards will actually drag you out.”

From an atmosphere perspective, putting all the away fans together makes them collectively louder. The fans can get their own cheers going, organizing the chants and making the atmosphere better.

But like everything, there are some downsides.

Putting all the fans together does make them one big target. Home fans that are looking for trouble know exactly where to go. And while there is a security presence around, it is still possible for altercations to occur, and it is hard to determine whether extra security will be needed.

But the main reason this will never occur is money. In the Premier League home teams set aside either 3,000 tickets or 10 percent of the stadium, whichever is less. This means at a stadium such as Vitality Stadium, home of Bournemouth, the visiting fans just get over 1,100 seats.

Away tickets are also sold at a lower price. Across the league, away tickets cost £30 ($43). At Old Trafford, home of Manchester United, to go to a single game in a similar section, a ticket goes for £46 ($65).

Try to imagine Jerry Jones or Robert Kraft letting thousands of dollars escape their grasp. It simply is not going to happen.

Especially if the NFL were to adopt the Premier League’s mandate to bring the away fans closer to the field. Those NFL tickets are expensive, and owners would likely want to tuck the visitors up in a corner.

While those are the issues, there is already a similar technique that is working on this side of the pond. Go to an NDSU football game and tucked in the corner of the Fargodome are the away fans. For the University of Minnesota, the Gophers put the away fans in the upper bowl.

This solution is possible, but it is just unlikely that would happen. It might need owners to come together and fix it. Judging by how much fracture came from just trying to give a contract to Roger Goodell, it won’t ever happen.

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