Shrewsbury Town are set to become the first club with an all-seated stadium in England and Wales to introduce safe standing at the Greenhous Meadow Stadium. An area at the back of the Salop Leisure South Stand, with a capacity of around 500 will be created with rail seating, replacing the conventional seats. Rail seating as the name suggests means that there is a rail along each row into which incorporates folding seats. The seats will be locked upright allowing fans to stand. There is also the option to unlock the seats into the down position to allow the area to be used as a seating area once again and hence comply with all seated requirements.
The move by Shrewsbury Town follows a request from the Football League to the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA), who are the Government Body responsible for stadium safety, to allow applications for safe standing areas from Football League Clubs who are not required to have all-seater grounds i.e. League One and League Two Clubs.
The Salop Leisure South Stand
(where the proposed safe standing area is to be created)
The Club has made the application to the SGSA after consulting fans who were in favour of the development and after looking at Celtic Football Club who installed a safe standing area at Celtic Park last Summer. The Club hopes that the move will boost atmosphere at the stadium and attendances. It has also revealed that a local Shrewsbury firm has designed the new rail seating. If things progress well then the safe standing area could be in place before the end of the 2017/18 season.
Other Clubs will be eyeing these developments with keen interest as it adds to the growing argument to allow rail seating to be allowed throughout the divisions. Just recently the Premier League wrote to all Premier League Clubs, asking if they would be interested in trialling such a system, with West Bromwich Albion, being the first to express an interest in doing so. Such safe standing areas have been particularly successful in Germany where whole stands are filled with rail seating. This allows fans to stand for League Games but revert back to being all-seated when say a European game is being played, where an all-seated stadium is a requirement. They have certainly been popular with fans and have helped increase the atmosphere inside grounds.
I personally am in favour of introducing such safe standing areas. The rail seating system is not the same the same as the terracing of old and anything that can help the atmosphere and the overall fan experience can only be a good thing in my book.