‘Safe Standing’, so long the dream for fans who feel sanitised and regulated, is about to become a reality after Shrewsbury Town applied to install rail seating at their ground.
The League One club announced plans to convert around 400 seats in the Salop Leisure Stand by the end of next season, in what is seen as a landmark move by those lobbying for a return to standing at football matches in England.
The move comes just months after the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (the Government-appointed body which regulates ground safety) granted a request by the English Football League for rail seating to be permitted in stadiums not subject to all-seater requirements.
Clubs in England’s top two divisions have been legally required to have all-seater grounds ever since the measure was recommended by following the Taylor Report into the Hillsborough disaster. However, should Shrewsbury win approval from the SGSA, then they would become the first all-seater stadium in England and Wales to reintroduce standing at Football matches.
Speaking to BBC sport, Shrewsbury Town chief executive Brian Caldwell said: “More people are encouraged to sing and get behind the team but also it’s a safer environment as well. Our safety officer has been up to Celtic to see it in action and was very, very pleased with how safe and secure it was.”
EFL sides were informed in March that they could apply for safe standing, with chief executive Shaun Harvey saying:
“The symbolic value of this decision should not be overlooked as I believe it demonstrates an encouraging direction of travel that will hopefully lead to further progress on our other aims in the period ahead. It is also recognition that the representations we are making about EFL clubs wanting to offer fans a modern and safe supporter experience in seats and on terraces is increasingly being heard and understood. Our objective remains to secure the opportunity for any of our clubs to have standing accommodation at their stadium and we will continue to lobby on this basis.”
The Football Supporters Federation has been a long-term supporter of safe standing, and for those wanting to know the facts this would be a great place to start. Whether the move is on the agenda at Sincil Bank isn’t clear, but with new stadium plans in the pipeline I can’t imagine we’d be looking at spending money on changes that will be obsolete in just a couple of years.
There are three main reasons why people see a return to standing as a good move. In the first instance it helps create the atmosphere, and anyone who stood in the David Fishwick Stand at Burnley will testify to that.
The FSF conducted a poll that showed 91.1% of fans preferred to stand rather than sit. Given the group that conducted the poll perhaps the result is no surprise, but in general many do favour a return to standing at football matches. It can cause friction currently, especially when some want to stand and some want to sit, and much like a so-called ‘singing section’, safe standing would allow those who want to build atmosphere to do so without causing annoyance to others.
Safety is also no longer an issue, and that was the main reason we went all-seater in the first place. The main difference between rail seats and terraces are that rail seats use metal barriers in front of each seat to prevent a ‘crush’ of supporters. With safe standing you would still get a ticket and a designated ‘seat’, but with it being on a rail you would have a place to stand as well. This would mean crushes are highly unlikely as each seat will be reserved for one supporter.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment here or on social media discussing your favour or opposition to safe standing at matches.