LONDON – English football fans pressing for standing areas to be reintroduced received a major boost on Monday when Liverpool supporters voted by a landslide majority for it to happen.
Their support is especially significant given the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which resulted in 96 Liverpool fans being killed in crushes caused by overcrowding in the Leppings Lane standing area.
In a week-long poll run by the club’s biggest independent supporters’ group Spirit of Shankly (SoS), 88 percent of the nearly 18 000 fans who took part voted in favour of rail seating.
Rail seating can be flipped down or locked into an upright position, with safety barriers separating each row.
Clubs in England’s top two divisions have been legally required to have all-seater grounds since the measure was recommended by the 1990 Taylor Report into Hillsborough.
“It’s an incredible turnout, we aren’t aware of such numbers voting before,” said SoS chairman Jay McKenna in a statement. “It demonstrates to us that we were right to have this discussion and that supporters, families and survivors want to have their say.
“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.”
However, McKenna added further discussions should take place given the sensitivity of the issue to those who lost loved ones at Hillsborough.
“We say to anyone who is campaigning for this to understand sensitivities and respect the views of those who disagree,” he said.
“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 vote comes in the wake of last week’s approval of third-tier English side Shrewsbury’s move to create a safe standing area, which would have a capacity of around 500, in their Montgomery Waters Meadow arena.
The Sports Ground Safety Authority gave their seal of approval last Wednesday.
Shrewsbury are looking to raise up to £75 000 to fund the cost of becoming the first all-seater stadium in England and Wales to introduce safe standing before the end of the 2017/18 season.
The Premier League recently wrote to its 20 clubs asking if they would be interested in taking part in a trial to reintroduce standing sections in their grounds.
Scottish Premiership champions Celtic last season installed 2 600 rail seats at Parkhead in a move that was considered a success.