English Premier League football club Wolverhampton Wanderers has announced today (Monday) that it is piloting a section of seating options that could be used for safe standing should government legislation on all-seater stadia change.
Wolves has installed three rail-seat solutions in a currently unused block of Molineux’s Billy Wright Stand, with two further options set to be fitted this week.
Wolves said the seats illustrate the variety of options that can now be installed at football stadia after new guidance was added to the Sports Grounds Safety Authority’s Green Guide last year.
Molineux becomes one of the first grounds in the Premier League to pilot the seating options, with the UK government having last year commissioned an official review into safe standing. Standing has been outlawed in the top two leagues of English football since the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans.
The latest edition of the Green Guide contains guidelines on the use of “seats incorporating barriers”. The SGSA has previously confirmed that, provided certain strict conditions are met, both independent barriers and seats incorporating barriers can be licensed as compliant with the government’s all-seater policy.
Wolves has partnered with Ferco Seating Systems, Grandstand Seating Systems, Alderdale Seating Ltd and safe-standing campaigner Jon Darch to introduce the new seating options at Molineux.
The seating will be viewed and assessed by the club’s Safety Advisory Group (SAG) and members of the Fans’ Parliament over the coming months.
Wolves managing director Laurie Dalrymple said: “As a club we are keen to be at the forefront of innovation and progression, so the opportunity to install these examples of potential safe-standing solutions was one that we were very happy to explore.
“Whilst the seats themselves will not be operational or used at matches, we are now able to give our Fans’ Parliament group and local authority the opportunity to view all the options before some of these solutions become commonplace in UK stadiums
“We are now actively working on plans regarding the development and expansion of Molineux in line with the club’s ambitions on and off the pitch, and we see this as another example of how we plan to meet supporters’ expectations and desires as we deliver a stadium that meets all of our requirements.”
Darch added: “It is fitting that Molineux should be the first operational stadium in the Premier League to install rail-seating as it was the first ground I took the Safe Standing Roadshow to in 2011, for a presentation to the Fans’ Parliament.
“We anticipate that in the future Safety Advisory Groups will be looking closely at clubs with areas of persistent standing, and will most likely encourage them to enhance spectator safety in those areas by installing rail seats like those now on show at Molineux.
“I also anticipate that in time legislation will change to allow clubs to operate areas fitted with such seating as formal standing areas. That could potentially happen this year.”