SHP Online is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.
When ‘safe standing’ is discussed, the chances are people are talking about rail seating. It is this product which is the most likely one to be applied into the Premier League, should legislation be changed allowing grounds to incorporate safe standing options.
Rail seating is where a seat is locked into an upright position for domestic games and supporters stand between barriers that are put in place for every row.
Each seat incorporates a high back with a top rail to the waist height of the spectator standing behind it. The top rail behind each seat links into the next one along the row, creating a continuous barrier along its full length.
The primary function of the ‘seats’ is to create a rail for spectators – and when seats are folded flush with the rail frame, the whole product is only a few centimetres deep. This has important safety implications, creating ease of access and egress for stewards and paramedics.
The height of rails is defined by the Green Guide for barriers in standing areas of lower league football ground and rugby union and league facilities. Currently it is 102cm.
One popular version of the rail-seat is the ‘lock and latch’ mechanism. A key lock enables the stadium operator to lock the seat out of use. When unlocked, the latch mechanism enables a spectator to lower and raise the seat and put it ‘on the latch’ as necessary for ease of access and pass along a row.
It the preference for most supporters groups and stadium officials when they are discussing rail seating areas in the UK – and a variant of it was applied at Celtic FC.
Although there are other options for safe-standing in European arenas, such as ‘clip-on’ or foldaway seat options, the most likely application in the English and home leagues is still rail seating.
The Safe Standing Roadshow’s Jon Darch, an expert on the concept, suggests a ground should use around 10% of its capacity for home fans as safe standing with an option for 5% being used for away fans.
Celtic FC, as a Scottish football ground, does not fall under the remit of the all-seater legislation. As a result, it has been able to apply its rail seating in a small section of the stadium for 2,900 supporters.
This is where safe standing evangelist Jon Darch comes into the equation. He is on a one-man mission to convince the authorities to relax the rules in a responsible and thorough manner – and firmly believes safe standing is not only the future, it is a safer option than present for those fans who wish to stand.
He spoke to SHP:
“At every game, hundreds, if not thousands of fans, stand in one or two areas of grounds that are not designed for the purpose, i.e. behind standard seats with low backs that form a fulcral point half-way up the spectator’s shins and thus represent a trip hazard.
With rail seating every fan has a sturdy rail in front of them.
Fans thus cannot fall forward or be knocked into by fans falling forward from behind. The classic ‘domino effect’ of progressive crowd collapse is thus physically impossible in areas of rail seating.
In my view safe standing is significantly safer than the status quo. Fans stand behind low-backed conventional seats, where progressive crowd collapse can and does occur.
You only have to look at fans’ social media accounts on Saturday evenings to see images of cuts and bruises on many a shin after a fan has been caught while celebrating a goal by the relatively sharp edge of the plastic seat-back in front of them.
Fans falling forward one or two rows is also not uncommon. Such involuntary surges are 100% impossible with waist-high rails along every seating row.
Making fans safer
In fact, one could argue that the safety authorities should be demanding in areas of stadia where the operator knows that fans will stand (and tolerates this) rail seating be fitted to make those fans safer.
The EFL is an interesting situation and shows how crazy the current legislation actually is.
That version of events has long since been discredited and so should be the standing ban that it spawned.
However, we still have the ban and the consequences of it are bizarre: if standing is unsafe, why do we have grounds with standing? Brentford and Burton Albion play in the Championship with terraces.
Fans like it and no disasters occur. 21 clubs in total in the English Football League still have terraces. If the government seriously believes that these are death traps, why aren’t the grounds closed down!?
The answer, of course, is that the ban is not based on logic. Ground operators, safety managers and stewards are perfectly capable of operating standing areas safely – whether they be conventional terraces or new-style safe standing areas using rail seats.
And the Sports Ground Safety Authority has now recognised the latter by putting in place a policy whereby all EFL clubs not required by law to have all-seater grounds can, if they wish, apply for consent to fit rail seats to use as standing spectator accommodation.
Like all clubs with all-seater grounds, the club does have some fans who choose to stand behind their seats. Like most safety officers and stewarding teams up and down the country, the team at Shrewsbury choose to manage this rather than create potential conflict by trying to stamp it out.
Now, with the planned installation of rail seats, they aim to provide their standing fans with a safer, dedicated environment for them to enjoy the match in their preferred manner, while simultaneously relocating those supporters from a block close to the away fans (a potential flash-point) to an area 100 yards away from the visiting fans in the stand at the opposite end of the ground.
So the solution not only makes the standing fans safer, but has crowd control benefits as well.
Fatigue is common amongst the population, but particularly among those working abnormal hours, and can arise from excessive working time or poorly designed shift patterns. It is also related to workload, in that workers are more easily fatigued if their work is machine-paced, complex or monotonous.