Championship football club Bristol City has announced plans to introduce rail/barrier seating at Ashton Gate in time for the 2020-21 season.
A dedicated area would be set up in blocks S25, S26 and S27 and City hopes the move will improve the match-day experience while ensuring fans’ safety. The club said it recognises that “a number of supporters” wish to stand at matches.
Some existing season card holders would be affected by the plans and they will receive a letter from chief executive Mark Ashton to inform them of the changes. Supporters would need a reserved seat to ensure that the correct number of supporters are in the designated rail/barrier seating blocks. The area is subject to approval from the Safety Advisory Group (SAG).
Barriers fitted in these blocks will ensure maximum safety for supporters wishing to stand during matches.
Ashton said: “I would like to thank you firstly for your support as a season card holder over the course of the 2019-20 campaign. It’s an incredibly exciting time as we enter the final few months of the season, however work has already begun on planning for 2020-21.
“With details of season cards renewals to be published imminently and, as a result of our proposed plans for rail seating, we would kindly ask you to select specific seats when purchasing your season card to ensure you can be with friends and family.
“We anticipate these changes to be very popular with supporters who are looking to renew in these blocks, so we would advise selecting your seats as soon as possible.”
City fan and safe-standing advocate Jon Darch told BristolLive that the club will be the first in the Championship to offer rail seating.
Premier League club Manchester United recently made a formal request to introduce at rail seating at Old Trafford. The rail-seating section would feature up to 1,500 seats in the North East Quadrant of Old Trafford.
United’s fellow Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur fitted rail seating at its new stadium, while Wolverhampton Wanderers last year announced plans to install a new barrier seating solution at Molineux.
Earlier this month, the Sports Ground Safety Authority revealed that initial research has indicated that the installation of safe-standing spaces has had a “positive impact” on spectator safety. The SGSA published the emerging findings of independent research on the safe management of standing at football and the results could potentially lead to the official return of standing at grounds in the Premier League and Championship.
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. However, there has been increasing efforts to return safe standing, which has received provisional support from the Football Association (FA), Premier League and English Football League (EFL), as well as from fan groups.
Image: Bristol City