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Safe standing is coming and we should embrace it

Wednesday 28th June 2017
Shrewsbury Town have  applied to have safe standing installed at Greenhous  Meadows. While a decision has not yet been made, safe standing is on its way and we should embrace it.
In 1989, one of the most infamous and horrifying events to ever take place in a football ground shaped the way the game was enjoyed substantially. The Hillsborough disaster, which saw 96 Liverpool fans die as they were crushed as a result of a surge in numbers in the standing area, was shocking and saddening. For a sport that brings such joy, there should never be so much pain and hurt.

As a result, sanctions were brought in place to irradicate standing sections of grounds, instead ruling that every stadium must be fully seated. In English football, it has been that way ever since. And justifiably so. Such are the dangers of standing areas, that there was no way to guarantee the safety of fans with such infrastructures in place.

But that is no longer the case. Across Europe, especially in Germany - I have experienced this at Hamburg -, and throughout the footballing world, there are stadiums that are embracing what is known as 'safe standing'. Safe standing consists of a railing that barriers off each row of seating. As such, there is a concrete wall behind where you stand, with a flip-down chair attached to the wall, and then a railing in front of you. The row in front, rather than being just a foot or two below, then drops two or three metres, with another concrete wall. There is another flip down chair attached to this wall with another railing in front of the space left to stand or sit.

The key difference between standing and seating is the installation of the concrete walls between each row and the railings that sit on top of them. There is a far steeper drop from row to row, but with the railing in front and the wall behind, there is no way that each row can be pushed forwards or back, like what happened at Hillsborough. It is an extremely clever and well-worked design, and one that does feel completely safe when using. It is also beginning to seep into the footballing culture in Britain.

In Scotland, Celtic installed a 2,900 capacity safe standing section just year, while West Bromwich has stated that that would want to bring in a similar initiative at the Hawthorns, though the law would have to be changed. The current law states that every club in the top two flights of English football must have all-seater stadiums. That is important because Shrewbury Town is set to apply for safe standing.

Shrewsbury, however, do not reside in the top two divisions and have a genuine chance of having their proposal accepted. If that is the case, then it will be the first stands with safe standing in professional English football. A truly groundbreaking moment.

Safe standing is on its way. There is a growing support for it. Shrewsbury is one of a number of clubs who are wanting to initiate the plans at their stadium. It will be introduced, however gradually, and it's about time we embraced it.
Andrew Dowdeswell

A sport obsessed 20 something who just really wants Arsenal to finally win the league. Please Wenger, what the hell happened to you?!


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