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Shrewsbury Town become first English Football League side to use safe standing

Tuesday 21st August 2018

For the start of the 2018/19 Shrewsbury Town have made history by becoming the first team in England to have a safe standing section at their ground. It has been a long time coming, but will this now lead to other clubs being able to introduce their own clubs standing sections.

Safe standing has become a debate that has been in English football since the early 1990’s. Previously the majority of stadiums at the top level were largely terraced. However, following the 1989 Hillsborough disaster when 96 Liverpool supporters died, an inquest took place by Lord Taylor. He produced the Taylor Report and one of the recommendations he made was that stadium should be all seated for the safety of those attending.

This led to the 1989 Football Spectators Act being brought in requiring all grounds to be all-seated although it was changed in 1992 to only include teams in the top two levels of the English game.

In the lower leagues, many teams still have standing sections and virtually all in Non-League have many fully standing areas. However, in the Premier League and Football League, nearly all clubs have fully seated stadiums.  Since the change in laws, there has been no standing at the highest levels of English football.

In League One, however, standing is still allowed. In May 2018 the new section of 550 safe standing seats was unveiled at Shrewsbury’s Montgomery Waters Meadow stadium. With this, they became the first side in England to have a safe standing section.

Numerous stadiums across Europe have safe standing sections. Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion is one of the most famous. However, closer to home Celtic also do, as Scotland does not fall under the laws put in place for England and Wales.

Shrewsbury moved to their current ground in 2007 having previously played at their traditional home Gay Meadow. At the time many fans were disappointed the new ground had no standing sections and feel their voices have finally been heard.

It has taken since 2016 for the planning and installation of the seats to go through but it is certainly a step forward for English football.

Ironically their new section was unveiled in the same week Shrewsbury headed to Wembley for their League One playoff final against Rotherham. They lost the match, but had they won and secured promotion to the Championship, they would have been forced to remove the section within three years unless the regulations change in the second tier by that point.

Ferco, the company that installed the seats also completed Celtic's. They advised over 50% of sides in the Premier League in the 2017/18 season had been in touch in relation to safe standing possibilities. The most notable in the media was West Bromwich Albion, but their application was not granted by Tracey Crouch, the current Sports Minister in England.

However, groups of supporters lobbying for safe standing to be an option for any who want it have been building momentum over the last 20 years and even if in the third tier will see Shrewsbury’s section as a major step forward.

Torquay United, although in the National South, have announced their plans to introduce safe standing, while many in the top two flights have publicly come out asking for their supporters opinions on the matter.

For fans, it is about the atmosphere enjoying watching their teams in the environment they want. If it is safe there are no reasons at all why more clubs shouldn’t be able to do it. Regardless of what level Shrewsbury are playing at in 10 years time, I think we are likely to see teams in the top two divisions with safe standing sections.

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Simon Hahn

Lifelong sufferer following Darlington FC from League Two to the Northern League. Freelance Sports and data journalist. Living for 3pm on Saturday.

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