Liverpool begins installation of rail seating at Anfield

Liverpool has announced that the first rail seats have been installed at Anfield’s Kop end as part of the Premier League club’s season-long trial of the new seating option.

Liverpool announced in June that it would be introducing rail seating but maintained at the time that the move should not be interpreted as creating ‘safe standing’ areas.

Liverpool is trialling the temporary installation of seats with safety rails in the Kop and Anfield Road lower tier – two areas that were highlighted for persistent standing following a safety review by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA).

The club has now announced that preparatory work has been completed and the first seats have now been installed. The seats in the Kop end were ready for yesterday’s (Sunday’s) pre-season match against LaLiga team Athletic Club and will be in operation again for today’s game against Osasuna.

The remainder of the work is due to be ready for the start of the new Premier League season, with Liverpool’s first home game against Burnley on August 21. Liverpool said the trial is designed to ensure supporters’ safety in the high-risk areas outlined by the SGSA.

The seating being installed includes normal stadium seats with an integrated safety rail behind them to avoid a crowd collapse, with Liverpool insisting that they will not impact the visibility of the pitch for fans. It is hoped the design of the seats will enable fans to stand safely at key moments in the game and revert to their seat at other times.

The Kop and Anfield Road stands will see a total of 7,800 seats updated in the trial. Around 1,800 new seats will be located at the back of the Kop and 6,000 in the Anfield Road lower tier.

In June, Liverpool was given the green light to expand the capacity of Anfield by around 7,000 to more than 61,000. Liverpool City Council approved the proposed redevelopment of the Anfield Road end during a planning committee meeting, with the club having also been awarded permission to hold up to six concerts and major events at the stadium for a period of five years.

The subject of standing at football matches remains an emotive one for Liverpool following the Hillsborough disaster. Standing has been outlawed in the top two leagues of English football since the FA Cup semi-final game between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in Sheffield on April 15, 1989, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans.

In May, a judge ruled that two retired police officers and an ex-solicitor accused of altering police statements following the disaster have no case to answer. Liverpool has previously said that despite the impending trial Anfield will remain an all-seater stadium, adding that the areas with the new seats and safety rails are not ‘safe standing’ areas.

The Liverpool Echo newspaper said in June that the club had sent a personal letter to all the Hillsborough families, updating them with all the relevant information about the rail seating trial before its formal announcement. Liverpool supporters union, Spirit of Shankly, took a group of fans, Hillsborough families and survivors to Scottish Premiership club Celtic in 2018 for a look at how rail seating works.

Rail seating has also been fitted at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge and Manchester United’s Old Trafford ahead of the new season. Manchester City is also fitting 5,620 new rail seats at Etihad Stadium.

Image: Jack Hunter on Unsplash