Wednesday 16 January 2019

Liverpool fans back safe-standing area

The rail seating area at Celtic’s Parkhead ground
The rail seating area at Celtic’s Parkhead ground

Liverpool fans have overwhelmingly backed the introduction of rail seating in Premier League grounds in what has been viewed as a key vote on the idea of safe standing.

In a week-long poll run by the club’s biggest independent supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly (SoS), 88 per cent of the nearly 18,000 fans who took part voted in favour of rail seating.

Grounds in England’s top two divisions have been all-seated ever since Lord Justice Taylor’s inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 which left 96 Liverpool fans dead.

Calls for a relaxation of that requirement, however, have been growing over the last decade, as many fans continue to stand throughout games, more has been revealed about the real causes of the 1989 tragedy and British fans have seen how supporters in Germany and elsewhere are allowed to stand during games.

Last month, after repeated calls from fans’ groups, the Premier League wrote to its clubs asking them if they would be interested in taking part in a safe-standing trial and League One’s Shrewsbury announced they would be installing a section of rail seats at their ground.

The debate, however, has always been more contentious and sensitive on Merseyside, with many relatives of Hillsborough survivors and victims strongly opposed to any softening of the all-seater requirement.

This is why SoS conducted the poll and why its result will be so keenly observed.

In a statement, SoS chair Jay McKenna said: “It’s an incredible turnout, we aren’t aware of such numbers voting before. It demonstrates to us that we were right to have this discussion and that supporters, families and survivors want to have their say. We have now had the vote and it will be taken as the position for Spirit Of Shankly.”

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