FROM next season, the South Stand at Derby County’s iPro Stadium will be a home supporters only area and the away fans will be moved to the South East Corner.
There will be an allocation of 2,700 tickets for away fans and a test run of the new plans is to be staged on March 22, when Nottingham Forest visit in the Championship.
Moving away fans from the South Stand has been on the cards for two years.
The club introduced the project in part at the beginning of this season and some 2,000 Rams fans relocated to the South Stand for certain matches.
Now the decision has been made to complete the switch from the start of next season.
Derby have consulted with the supporters who will be affected by the move as well as the Safety Advisory Group and the Police.
And the club say 98 per cent of the fans consulted are in favour of the switch.
It is felt that having around 4,500 Derby fans behind the goal in the South Stand will lead to an improved atmosphere, and wrestle back some of the home advantage that can be lost when away fans fill the South Stand, as has been seen with Forest, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United in the past.
Derby say the switch has been driven by the fans.
Head coach Steve McClaren is also keen to see Rams fans behind the goal, as was former manager Nigel Clough.
“The current configuration within the stadium does not really suit us,” said chief operating officer John Vicars.
“When we play teams with a very large away support you could argue that we sometimes surrender the initiative in terms of home advantage when you have got 4,500 away fans very vocal and making a lot of noise.
“When clubs bring a few supporters, about 500 shall we say, we then have up to 4,000 empty seats behind the goal.
“We don’t think we are making the best use of the stadium.
“A lot of our own fans have said they want to sit behind that goal and create something of a singing area.
“From next season the area will be full of our supporters, who I’m sure will be very vocal and make their presence felt for the benefit of the team.”
A test run or “familiarisation exercise” for the stewards, the Police and other emergency services will be against Forest.
Vicars said: “We have picked the game on March 22 because we know it will be a full house and effectively what we will be doing for that game is putting next season’s plans into place to see how it works, to see if there are any tweaks we might need to make in the summer ahead of next season.”
Forest will receive 2,700 tickets for the game – a significant reduction on the figure of around 4,500 the Reds normally receive.
Derby supporters voiced their anger when Forest gave the Rams only 2,000 tickets for the game at the City Ground in September.
“The South East Corner area has got 2,700 seats,” said Vicars.
“I am aware Nottingham Forest gave us 2,000 for the game in September. That was their decision. Our decision will be to give them 2,700, which is a significant reduction on what they have become used to here.
“We would not want to get involved in any tit-for-tat dispute with Nottingham Forest on that score. To have 700 seats empty for the game would be nonsensical.”
Derby say the reduction in the allocation to away supporters over a season will not lead to a loss financially.
“There will be only about three games a season where the away club would have taken up their 4,500 allocation,” said Vicars.
“We have looked at it very closely. We are determined to create a South Stand full of Derby County supporters.
“Supporters will not see too much change inside the bowl of the stadium other than the away supporters will be wedged in the South East Corner and so there will be segregation lines on either side of them.
“Underneath the seating we will have to put in new segregation gates and make sure we have sufficient toilet provision and refreshment bar provision.”
The away coaches park is adjacent to the South East Corner.