League One football club Shrewsbury Town is set to become the first English side to introduce safe standing at its Greenhouse Meadow home ground.
The 10,000-capacity stadium is currently all-seater, however, Shrewsbury is seeking permission to build a standing area for 400 fans.
The club is following in the footsteps of Scottish Premiership club Celtic, which implemented a 2,600-capacity safe standing area at the beginning of the 2016-17 season at Celtic Park. Standing at football matches was outlawed in the top two divisions following the Taylor Report into the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster, in which 96 Liverpool fans died.
Shrewsbury is looking to gain approval from the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) within the next few weeks in order to have the area in place before the end of the season.
No English clubs have modified their all-seater stadiums to include standing room, despite some Premier League clubs backing their introduction. More than half of English Premier League football clubs have said that they would consider incorporating safe standing on a trial basis.
Yesterday (Monday), it was reported by the Sportsmail that the league wrote to all 20 of its sides to see if they would be interested in piloting the safe standing at matches.
The majority have confirmed that safe standing is something they would be interested in, while clubs such as Liverpool are still opposed to the idea.
Shrewsbury will raise the £50,000 to £75,000 needed to install the standing area through crowdsourcing, run by their Supporters’ Parliament and the Football Supporters’ Federation.
In case the club is promoted to the Championship, the sum includes a contingency fund because, under the current legislation, it would need to convert the area back into seats.
A recent agreement between the Football League and the SGSA allows clubs, which had not made the top two tiers since 1994, to apply to install rail seating.
“I am very familiar with the great success Celtic have had with their rail seating,” said chief executive Brian Caldwell, who was approached by fans about introducing safe standing.
“Our safety officer visited Celtic Park recently. 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 Football League, we will be paving the way for other clubs in England and Wales to follow suit.”
Earlier in the year, the UK government said that it “remains unconvinced” by the case to reintroduce safe standing to Premier League and Championship football grounds in England.
In its ‘Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation’, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said it was not persuaded that standing return to the country’s biggest football stadiums.
It added that it would continue to monitor the success of Celtic’s 2,600-capacity safe standing area, which was opened at the start of the season.
Image: James Humphreys