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TYKES BLOG: “We must state the obvious. The atmosphere is poor”

I was always told growing up that Oakwell has ‘soul, passion and an unmatched atmosphere. ’As I grew up, and started to think more independently, I came to realise that it is not true in the slightest.

Credit: Barnsley Football Club

Oakwell, once in a blue moon, can be ‘rocking,’ but this is rare and only in exceptional circumstances (such as promotion or beating a rival). We travel far and wide on this island, and witness even thesmallest in League One having a better atmosphere. But why?

Away from home the Reds are loud and usually travel with incredible numbers. What is wrong with our home atmosphere? Let us take a look! For a start, we must state the obvious. The atmosphere is poor, because not enough people join in with the chants or create noise when a corner or free kick is won. Having a fan-base that (to a person) is injected with energy and passion, will always create a buzz for the players to thrive off, but Oakwell is soulless.

Alcohol could be a factor, away from home the fans are usually intoxicated, which will always lead to more noise and commotion.We must also remember, Oakwell has witnessed some spectacular rubbish in recent years, driving away the will and passion from supporters, apart from the 18 months in which fans were not in attendance (ironically, those 18 months included staying up on the final day, and reaching the Play Off semi-final – our highest finish in 20 years!).

Poorly designed stadium

Oakwell is also designed poorly, it wasn’t designed at all in reality. Over the years, it has been built upon to meet the needs of supporters at the time. It may have more identity, but it’s harder to create an atmosphere under tight conditions.

The away fans are given a huge stand behind the goal, and are at the complete opposite side of the stadium to where the vocal Barnsley supporters enjoy the match. There is no ‘back and forth’ atmosphere, that would fuel home supporters to be more passionate. The West Stand is half closed, to accommodate club staff, the press and players who are not playing.

This means that one half of the ground has no home fans, and you can only hear the away fans. This removes the home advantage, and stops the noise travelling from all areas of our proud stadium.

Home fans in the North Stand?

I believe that the North Stand could be used to our advantage with half of the North Stand being be opened to home supporters, creating a rival atmosphere with the close proximity to our visitors.

There is a reported £100,000 price tag to this, with the North Stand turnstiles never being used on the east side of the stand, meaning they are in much need of fixing, given the 20 years of neglect. This would also create an issue with stewarding, requiring additionalstewards to contain both away and home supporters to their confined part of the stand.

Fighting and anti-social behaviour is also a factor, but I do not think this would be an issue. Home fans will enter from the East Stand side, whilst away fans enter from the West Stand side (complete segregation). A few hurdles, that could be overcome with enough will-power from the board.

Credit: Barnsley Football Club

Create a singing section?

Moving the singing home fans nearer the away fans is crucial, you sometimes feel alone at Oakwell, like there is no away fans, due to the distance of the visiting supporters – naturally, this instinctively gives you less will to ‘give some stick’ to the opposition.

There is a psychological advantage if you manage to perfect the home atmosphere. When Leeds United and both Sheffield clubs fill out Oakwell, it feels like the energy from a bouncing North Stand is sucking the ball into the back of our net. Our net, but it does not feel like our net. It feels like it is their net, and they have taken over Oakwell. It should not feel that way, not at home.

Anyone want a drum?

Another suggestion was to implement a drum to Oakwell. This would be controversial, there is no urgent desire for a drum, but some are militantly against the use of one. I believe a drum would be positive, and make joining in with the chants much easier. It would also generate more noise – a pin drop could be heard at Oakwell at the minute.

It will nothappen however, due to the demand to adamantly avoid using one. Despite this, clubs such as Bolton, Blackpool and Oldham Athletic utilise a drum and have a fantastic atmosphere with chants easily being started from the drum, it should be considered, however I have heard reports that a drum has been tested in the past – and failed miserably.

Many supporters respond by saying the atmosphere is poor due to the poor standard of football on show over the last few years. Yet I would argue that despite Bolton almost being liquidated and the supporters at odds with their previous owners has not stopped them creating at atmosphere at home games. Look at Oldham Athletic.

Relegated out of the football league yet their owners fully endorse a singing section behind one goal allowing their "Athleticos" a band of noisy supporters to bring flags, banners and a drum and make as much noise as they wish. This has created a great atmosphere in a stadium that has seen smaller crowds than at Barnsley, playing worse football yet creating a better atmosphere.

To Conclude

In conclusion lowering the capacity for away fans would be a good start. However, without Barnsley fans near the away fans, there will be no back and forth. This is an urgent matter, and the board must address it. Following a meeting, I gave Julie-Anne Quay a sheet of ideas to improve the atmosphere at Oakwell. I suggested a designated singing section in the corner of the Ponty end. What do you think could be done to fix the atmosphere? Spread your opinion on social media, make your voice heard!

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