Liverpool fans vote in favour of rail seating
Liverpool supporters have voted in favour of rail seating, in an online poll run by a leading fans’ group.
Spirit of Shankly had an “emotive and sensitive” debate on the issue before holding an open vote, and 88% of the 17,910 people who voted were in favour.
There were 5% against, while the rest were undecided or wanted to know more.
Liverpool have said their supporters’ position on the issue is “uniquely complex” because of the Hillsborough disaster, which claimed 96 lives.
The requirement for all-seater stadiums in England’s top flight was a response to the tragedy and government legislation would need to change for standing areas to be introduced.
Liverpool said they would “listen” to fans’ views if the regulations were ever changed.
The Premier League wrote to its 20 clubs last month to assess whether they would be interested in staging trials.
Rail seating, similar to the system at the ground of Scottish champions Celtic, is a safe-standing area featuring retractable seats.
In a statement on its Facebook page, the Hillsborough Justice Campaign said Spirit of Shankly (SOS) “should be applauded for the manner in which they conducted the debate and voting”.
“They approached Hillsborough groups, invited people to voice their opinions at meetings and now have the results of the vote – overwhelmingly in favour of safe standing,” it added.
‘It’s an incredible turnout’
SOS said the result of the vote was a “significant step given the sensitivities of the topic” in the city.
Chair Jay McKenna said: “It’s an incredible turnout. We aren’t aware of such numbers voting before.
“After nine months of discussion, we have now had the vote and it will be taken as the position for Spirit of Shankly.
“The size of the turnout majority means that no-one can be in any doubt that supporters have had their say and made an informed decision.”
SOS said its members voted “broadly in line” with the overall outcome, but the group said the result should not be “overly celebrated”.
“We say to anyone who is campaigning for this to understand sensitivities and respect the views of those who disagree,” said McKenna.
“No-one wins here. This has been a mature and sensitive conversation and we have arrived at a position.
“Those who have been through incredible heartache and tragedy have every right to be heard and to ask important questions about safety.
“It was important in our conversations to have these answered. It would be wise for that to take place elsewhere.”
The growing debate
Debate about the issue of safe standing has grown since Celtic introduced about 3,000 rail seats at Celtic Park at the beginning of last season.
Representatives from the club and the Sports Ground Safety Authority, which oversaw regulations regarding the move to all-seater stadiums, were present at the meeting held by SOS prior to the vote.
SOS has discussed the issue with members since September, and has met with survivors of the Hillsborough disaster and families of those who died.
West Bromwich Albion have said they would be willing to use The Hawthorns as part of a pilot scheme for safe standing.