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July 31, 2017

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Stadium safety

More than 88% of Liverpool fans back ‘safe standing’

Liverpool FC fans have backed the introduction of ‘safe standing’ rail seating zones at football stadia, following a poll of 18,000 people by a major supporters’ group.

A total of 88.21% of fans surveyed by the Spirit of Shankly supporters’ club were in favour of the introduction of rail seating areas, with 5% being against and 7% wanting to know more or being undecided.

The poll is significant both for its size and for the nature of the supporters’ group being polled, considering Liverpool’s history with the Hillsborough stadium disaster.

Currently no grounds in the top two-tiers of English football can have rail-seating due to laws on all-seater stadia, following the Hillsborough disaster and the Taylor report.

But several, including West Bromich Albion, have signaled interest in trialing the idea, and Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal have incorporated the potential for such seating into their new arenas, should the law change.

New policy

The move means the supporters’ group will now present a policy and position in favour of the introduction of safe standing through rail-seating.

It said its policy followed a ‘sensitive, sensible, honest and mature conversation’ on the topic, and identified key themes around safety:

  • A choice for supporters between sitting and standing
  • Safety for those who currently stand at games
  • The safety of any future standing model

The survey included extensive consultation with the Hillsborough Family Support Group, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign and all other survivors and families of the disaster.

The supporters’ club said: “Many shared personal experiences, something a number of them have done rarely since 1989. We are humbled that they felt able to do so with us, and we thank them sincerely for informing this debate. We do and always will retain the utmost respect for their views.”

Contributions also included representatives from the Sports Ground Safety Authority and Celtic FC, who has already introduced rail-seating as Scottish stadiums do not fall under the legislation impacting English top-tier grounds.

The Spirit of Shankly group said it realised the significance of the vote both locally and for the wider national debate.

It said: “When discussions of rail seating first began, Liverpool supporters and Hillsborough have been referenced both as a reason not to do it, or as a possible turning point that would allow its introduction.

“Now, our views are known and we urge everyone to digest and understand the sensitivities and detail behind the outcome. Our voice and views should not be misused, misrepresented or misappropriated by anyone. We will not allow that.

All views be heard

The group called on those encouraging the introduction of rail-seating areas to ensure ‘all views are heard’ and ensure questions and concerns of those opposed are addressed.

It said: “We emphasise that this remains the first step for Liverpool supporters, not the conclusion. The outcome of this is not a call for rail seating to be introduced at Anfield.

“We will have further consultation with families, survivors, members, supporters and LFC in due course but for now, we will take time to digest the result and reflect on what it means.”

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