Each row has depth 20-30 centimeters below international standards and yet the municipal authorities decided to install large folding seats. The outcome should have been predicted: dramatically little leg room.
We haven't kept you up to date on the reconstruction of Abanca Balaidos, because we were quite convinced there's not much to describe: the second grandstand was delivered and there's still time before work continues on the next one.
Silly us, because in late July it turned out that Grada Rio (south stand) isn't as complete as we thought. When RC Celta Vigo began to take over (the stadium is being rebuilt by the municipality and relationship with Celta can be described as chilly), the club discovered the amount of space left for spectators' legs in the lower south stand. It's something the municipality had to predict. But didn't.
© RC Celta
This is when Celta began voicing concerns in public, rather than in private exchanges with officials, and immediately invited representatives of supporters to sit in the newly-renovated rows for themselves. If they could. It wasn't possible in all areas as the most shallow row provided less than 13 centimeters of leg room – barely enough to bend knees if you're of the exactly right height.
Celta went public with images of the supporters' attempts and earned a claim of 'obstructionism' from the city. Later, the mayor informed journalists that the problem is exaggerated and concerns only 368 seats. While clearly not ideal, this may have softened the blow. Or it would have if not for Celta taking the exact measure from 1,771 seats and ending up with average of 18.69cm.
© RC Celta
The municipal councilor for sports, Manel Fernández, recently spoke to Galega Radio and tried to mitigate the situation, at least in terms of publicity. “The distance is calculated and is the same as it was before. There's about 48 or 50 centimeters between backrest and backrest. What happens is that it is a different type of seat that complies with current regulations, which did not happen before.”
While the second part of this quote is obviously true, it also is the very problem that the municipality should have predicted. When the rows are old and narrow, installing large modern seats will leave too little room for legs. Don't take it from us, take it from international norms. As Fernández claims, current row depth is around 50cm. Meanwhile, the UK's Green Guide defines the norm at 70cm, while FIFA's own structural requirements put it at 80cm.
© RC Celta
It comes as no surprise that representatives of supporters spear no criticism, just like their club. They deny the city's claim that standard has actually improved with new folding seats. Even representatives of peñas who are of average height had difficulty taking a seat. And yet the municipal representative sees no option of changing the layout. It would require a major structural intervention and designing the rows anew.
Celta is of the opinion that the city bares all responsibility and they're not just talking about the leg room. Lack of elevators, insufficient roof over the stand, flooding in the locker rooms, missed deadlines and more...
© RC Celta