Shrewsbury Town are set to become the pioneers of safe standing in England.
Following the creation earlier this year by the Sports Ground Safety Authority of a formal process to enable clubs such as Shrewsbury to seek approval for the installation of rail seating for standing fans, the Shropshire club has now become the first to formally apply to do so. If the plans are given the green light by the SGSA and their local Safety Advisory Group amongst others the Oteley Road ground will become the first all-seater stadium in England and Wales to introduce safe standing.
In a move instigated by the club’s Supporters Parliament, Shrewsbury Town have applied for approval to create a safe standing area in the Salop Leisure Stand with a capacity of around 500 within their 10,000-capacity all-seater ground. The plan is to fit the area with rail seats, as used successfully in the safe standing section introduced at Celtic last summer. The installation is to be crowdfunded at a cost of around £50,000 - £70,000.
“There’s a clear demand from our fans for an area where they can stand safely,” says Supporters Parliament Joint Chair Roger Groves. “We see that at every game with several hundred choosing to stand at their seats, which is not altogether safe. Rail seats will ensure that nobody falls over no matter how wildly they celebrate a goal and, by having a dedicated standing area, we believe that the overall atmosphere in the stadium will also be enhanced. For all those fans who prefer to sit, it will additionally mean that there will be no standing fans in their part of the ground spoiling their view.”
While all clubs that have played for three seasons in the top two tiers of the game are currently required by law to go all-seater in time for any subsequent season at that level, clubs that have not played for three seasons at tier 2 or above since the legislation came into force are still able to offer their fans a choice of seated or standing accommodation. There are currently 21 clubs in the EFL, including Brentford and Burton Albion in the Championship, offer standing in the form of conventional terracing. As of this spring, a process now exists whereby clubs not governed by the all-seater legislation can seek approval to provide this option in the form of rail seats. The clubs not governed by the legislation are the 21 with conventional terraces, plus a further 8 that have in the past gone all-seater, but were not legally required to do so. Shrewsbury fall into this latter category, having built the Oteley Road based all-seater stadium 10 years ago when the club moved from Gay Meadow, where over half the crowd used to stand. This project aims to give at least some Shrews fans that option once again.
“As a Scot, I am very familiar with the great success that Celtic have had with their rail seating section,” said Shrewsbury Town Chief Executive Brian Caldwell. “So when the Supporters Parliament approached me about introducing the same concept here, I was immediately keen on the idea. Our Safety Officer has also visited Celtic Park recently and is all for it. We see it as an enhancement in spectator safety and a welcome provision of supporter choice. We hope, too, that by pioneering the use of rail seating in the EFL, we will be playing a useful part in paving the way for other clubs in England and Wales to follow suit in due course.”