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Shrewsbury Town set for safe standing after successful crowd funding

Saturday 21st October 2017
Safe standing in the English game raises eyebrows. Despite the controversy, League One Shrewsbury Town is boldly implementing it at the New Meadow Stadium.

The Blues have just announced a major step in the club's plan for safe standing, given the crowdfunding effort has reached its £65,000 target. The board has applied to install rail seats before season's end. While common in Europe, Shrewsbury Town will be the only Football League side with safe standing. The New Meadow may set an example for Premier League and Championship sides.
With a fundraising specialist's help, the supporters' parliament, which partners the club, raised the £65,000 from nearly 1,000 donors. Contributors ranged from Salop supporters to rival fan groups who share a desire for safe standing's return. Fansbet, with former goalkeeper Paul Robinson acting as ambassador, has offered significant sponsorship and backing.

Following the 1990 Hillsborough tragedy, standing sections were banned from all grounds in England's top two tiers. Within three years, major stadiums in England and Wales were seating only. As a third-tier side, Shrewsbury is exempt from the law. Yet, the football league has supported their initiative, providing the New Meadow's safe standing is a completely safe environment.

Celtic implemented safe standing to begin the 2016-17 Scottish Premier League season after a 5-year battle to gain approval from the Glasgow council. The Bhoys borrowed aesthetic and practical designs from German football. Standing is common place in the Bundesliga. It's why those photos featuring Borussia Dortmund are so awe-inspiring.
The rail concept is versatile. It allows for both standing and seating. Choosing both quashes most arguments against the idea. Modern grounds are much safer and well built. Rail stands can satisfy appropriate building codes. For safe standing to become a reality at major English grounds, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) must set those standards.

In 2013, then-SGSA Chief Executive Ruth Shaw expressed understanding for supporters' desires but stressed safety remains the overriding priority.

We recognise there are some fans who may prefer to stand, and we're happy to engage in an informed and constructive debate, but our view is that seating is generally safer.

Hers was the most open-minded position taken since the ban.

Four years later, with closure at long last in the Hillsborough inquiry and so many signs indicating safe standing can indeed be safe when properly planned and designed, momentum is gaining in England to lift the ban. While authorities still need convincing, evidence is on safe-standing advocates' side. With the Bundesliga fan experience setting a compelling precedent, persistence may transform the dream into reality.

After clubs, likely spurred by supporters, asked the Premier League to investigate safe standing's feasibility last November, the league replied in June, gauging continued interest for a possible trial. It would appear owners are accepting that safe standing is a match day experience embedded in fans' collective DNA.

Shrewsbury has taken the first step. The Blues can be regarded as the flagship club for introducing safe standing at major stadiums throughout the country. Fans want it. Many grounds will no doubt benefit from it. Smaller grounds will accrue greater revenue with minor expense, while regaining lost character. Larger ones will remind noisy European grounds what English football is truly about.
Ryan Stewart

23 years old, Sport Journalism graduate living in Salford. Work in web content in Media city and always looking to break in to sports writing. Manchester United season ticket holder.

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