FOR years, football supporters across the UK have discussed rail seating, whether you should be allowed to sit or stand at football matches. They’ve discussed the pros and cons, had conversations with their clubs and supporter groups have asked their supporters what they think.
At Liverpool, the situation has been very different. The reason is Hillsborough.
Hillsborough and standing are linked. Lord Justice Taylor’s report following the disaster recommended all-seater stadia be introduced for certain stadiums. The Football League at the time decided this should apply to all clubs in the top two divisions. This, as we know, has happened.
We’ve always been asked at Spirit Of Shankly what our view was on standing, or whether rail seating should be introduced at all. We didn’t think, when we were asked, it was right to talk about it. Our attention, as for all of our supporters, was on the campaign for truth and justice. We didn’t want distractions when something so pressing required people’s focus and attention.
Events in recent years though have changed that. We have truth, and the path towards justice has been set out.
Rail seating is no longer a discussion based on the German model or of overseas matches experienced by fans. Instead it is much closer to home, with its recent introduction at Celtic. The Taylor Report also said that supporters would become used to sitting down. This, as we see regularly, hasn’t happened.
This is why last summer, our committee made a decision to start looking at how we might have this discussion with Liverpool supporters. It’s a significant step for us, and personally I feel a very brave one.
Whenever people have spoken of standing and rail seating previously, they have mentioned Hillsborough and Liverpool supporters. We felt it was only right that instead of us being referenced, everyone should have their say.
We were aware that bringing this up could cause upset, bring back difficult memories and cause division – already we have seen differing views emerge. But if we didn’t have this conversation, it would happen without us. It could take place without people having a say and be introduced around us. It was better, we feel, that we lead a conversation that understands the sensitivities and respects each other despite differing opinions.
This is what we have done. Since last September, when we brought a motion to our AGM asking if we should even have the conversation, we have taken slow and deliberate steps to ensure people could get involved.
Before making public announcements, we made sure we told the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) and Hillsborough Justice Campaign (HJC) first. We’ve had an open offer throughout to meet and ask questions or discuss what is happening.
We have a seat on the local Ground Safety Advisory Group, convened by Liverpool City Council, which is made up of representatives from the emergency services and local authority, and we’ve sent updates to them and offered them an opportunity to have their say.
Supporters will have seen regular updates since last September, with coverage across local media that this conversation was happening.
Now, nine months on, we have reached the point where we will have the open discussion and then make a decision whether we are in favour or opposed to rail seating. There is an important distinction to be made. This isn’t a vote on its introduction at Anfield, but in general. Any decision on introducing such a model at Anfield would require a lengthy process.
We are aware that while some will say we don’t speak for everyone, any decision made will be seen as reflective. It is why we want you to have your say.
LISTEN: We discussed the topic with guests in a safe standing special on our City Talk show
It hasn’t been easy – we have had to chase people for input and we’ve been surprised that neither the police or the local authority have not put forward a view. It has though been necessary, to make sure that everyone has been afforded the same opportunity.
So this Saturday, July 22, we will have a public meeting in Liverpool to talk it all through. We have speakers who can speak with confidence and expertise on this subject and they will answer questions from those present.
Amanda Jacks, from the Football Supporters’ Federation. They are in favour and those who know Amanda know of her experience in dealing with how supporters are policed and stewarded. She was also involved in the initial work on this in Stand Up, Sit Down.
Rick Riding, an inspector with the Sports Ground Safety Authority. It is their responsibility to ensure football stadiums comply with government legislation and it is they who write the Green Guide, which would determine any requirements for rail seating.
John-Paul Taylor is the Supporter Liaison Officer at Celtic and he will be able to tell us about their experience of introducing rail seating, why they did it and what supporters think.
Earlier in the week, we will be meeting with Hillsborough families and survivors in a closed meeting, so that they can share their views and so that we can ensure their voices are heard.
All are welcome to attend. The meeting starts at 12:15pm, in The Liner Hotel in Liverpool. Full details can be found here. The meeting will be streamed live and available for viewing afterwards. Those unable to attend can submit a question to [email protected] After the meeting we will put it to a vote to let people make their own mind up.
It is an important discussion for our supporters and we want to ensure everyone can listen to each other’s views, put forward their own, and then make a decision.
I hope to see you there.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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In my opinion safe standing is quite clearly an improvement. I’ve been to a few games in Germany with safe standing and you can’t fail to see the benefit of cheaper tickets and a better atmosphere.
The issue is purely, and understandably, emotional. No one can risk another tragedy. I’d like to see standing areas but I think emotion will trump reason.
I have the view that seated stadiums are the best , I think we should learn from the past , 96 of our fellow Liverpool supports list there lives , seated stadiums are safer for family’s children etc, let’s not make a decision on this standing areas as proven that these areas haven’t been managed right in the past , seating only is the way to stay ,
It won’t stop people standing in seated areas as loads prefer it, and that is more unsafe than rail seating will ever be.
Your comment abut learning from the past is misguided. Standing wasn’t the cause of Hillsborough.
Seems clear to me from all accounts that rail seating is actually safer than current seating, since people can’t fall across the seats, as some of us have been known to at Anfield. For that reason I’m in favour, in principle.
But if the Hillborough families were strongly opposed, I’d back them. Once you know someone whose child’s died, you’d have to have a hell of a reason to do anything that inflamed that pain.
Too many seem to think you stick up some rails and that makes it all ‘safe’.
Celtic fans nearly went through the Anfield Road end a few years ago – I haven’t seen anyone ask how many stands/stadiums built since Taylor are actually capable of handling, what? A 30% increase in weight bouncing up and down on it for ninety minutes.
I think the engineers would take all that into account and add reinforcements where necessary. I doubt they’ll just put up some rails and leave it at that. I don’t think that’s what people are assuming would happen.
It’s a very easy word to use but there isn’t enough information to know if that’s possible – you can stick all the diagonal beams and moment frames in you like, the foundation has to be able to support it.
There are plenty of questions about safety and the only answer I’ve seen provided thus far is ‘yeah but railings and that’.
The discussion of the rail seating being safer is from a use perspective, not sure why you’re comparing it to a structural perspective – my point is that it is the responsibility of engineers to ensure that it is structurally safe (the rail seating won’t go ahead if it’s structurally unsafe). Of course we don’t have the information for that, why would we? We’d need to see the structural plans and be able to understand them. That’s not our job.
But the question being asked now is whether Liverpool fans are ok with rail seating or not ok with it, not if the stand can withstand fans bouncing in unison for 90 minutes. If fans say they’re opposed to rail seating, then the story ends. If they are in favour, then we move on to the next question. It’s a good (lengthy) step-by-step process being followed here.
But you know you also unwittingly pointed out a big problem with seated areas with the Celtic fans example? in that the seated area was not designed to withstand bouncing fans, but that didn’t stop fans from standing and jumping. And so supports were then added to the existing structure to make sure it’s safe should it happen again. Was a standard process, not impossible.
Seriously m8, I doubt they wouldn’t allow anything to be introduced which wouldn’t pass a million test scenarios. Not sure why that bothers you.
The rails are a good idea at first evaluation, but there are prudent caveats inherent in their presence. They serve as a fulcrum to hang on to while jumping and, therefore, make it possible for more active jumping. The sum total of this needs to be factored into the load limits of the arena where they are proposed for deployment.
“It was not standing itself which killed our Kev and 95 angels with him, it was a catalogue of serious failings by police, the ambulance service, the Football Association and many others.”
A piece in the Guardian lately, quoting Sara Williams, the daughter of the late Anne Williams. – As a German I scan only agree that he tragedy really had nothing to do with modern seating. What I generally learned over here in England, that people just don’t speak out about things which bother them. – This makes the Hillsborough campaign even more unique and remarkable.