LONDON (Reuters) – Wolverhampton Wanderers are to install rail seats at their Molineux stadium to allow fans to stand next season.
Standing at grounds in the top two tiers is banned but the Premier League club said they were taking advantage of new safety guidelines which allow clubs some flexibility.
Rail seats, popular in Germany and employed at Scottish champions Celtic, fold up to provide a safe space for fans to stand with a rail for support.
“This is not about safe standing,” Wolves managing director Laurie Dalrymple was quoted by the BBC.
“This is a very strong middle ground. I don’t believe the evidence supports a view that standing in football grounds is something that is inherently dangerous.
“But I am pleased this revision to the guidelines allows us to do something that permits the fans to be in the stadium and, should they wish to stand, are doing so in a safe environment.”
Standing was outlawed in the top two divisions in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster that resulted in the death of 96 Liverpool fans.
However, with many clubs now playing in state-of-the-art stadiums, fans have called for a return to standing areas to provide a better match-day atmosphere.
There have also been safety issues with fans continuing to stand in conventional seating areas — a particular problem this season at Wolverhampton Wanderers where a recent survey said 97 percent of fans wanted rail seating.
New guidance last year from the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) paved the way for Wolves’ decision.
“This is the perfect opportunity for us to meet all of the expectations of the safety guidelines and give our fans what they want,” Dalrymple said.
“We have had persistent problems in that area of the ground from fans who wish to stand and we have made it clear on occasions in the past that if there was an opportunity to pilot a scheme we would want to be at the forefront.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)