A major manufacturer of rail seating for football stadia has told talkSPORT some Premier League clubs could install a section within months.
Managing Director of Ferco Seating Ltd, Michael Burnett, said: “It could be this summer if they can get over all the regulatory hurdles. There’s certainly a couple at the moment who are looking at doing something. I know that they have spoken to the authorities and to the Football League.”
No club in the top two English divisions has introduced a standing area since they were required to go all-seater following the Hillsborough disaster.
But opinion and, crucially, the feeling of supporters has been shifting. Momentum has also been gathering since Ferco Seating Ltd installed 3,000 rail seats at Celtic Park in 2016.
Celtic FC’s Supporter Liaison Officer, JP Taylor, told talkSPORT: “It has revolutionised the atmosphere. If the stadium is not full or if the football is not particularly exciting it tended to go a bit flat. Whereas now having the standing area with three thousand people in there creating a noise every game is an experience at Celtic Park.”
Fans have responded positively to the rail seats at Celtic Park, which the club say have ‘revolutionised’ the atmosphere
Rail seating is widespread in the Bundesliga and elsewhere, with clubs such as CSKA Moscow introducing it in their new stadium.
Mr Burnett believes the success of modern safe-standing areas has accellerated the desire of Premier League clubs to bring it in.
“We have had them over in Germany so they could see it first hand, how the whole thing functions in a large stadium with large numbers of fans.”
The law remains that clubs, which have played in the top two tiers of English football for three seasons must provide all-seat stadiums.
But Jon Darch, Operator of the Safe Standing Roadshow, says this still does not rule out rail seating.
“The law gives the Secretary of State certain powers that are, in effect, discretionary. The Secretary of State could therefore lift the restriction on ground X, Y or Z.”
Mr Darch thinks that Tottenham Hotspur could be the first Premier League club to introduce safe standing.
“All that would be required for them to be able to put rail seats in, even as soon as August when they open the new stadium, is for the Secretary of Sate to say ‘Yes’.”
Tottenham acknowledges that it has ‘future-proofed’ the new 61,000 capacity venue to make it easy to adapt for rail seats.
talkSPORT has contacted the club for a statement regarding its timescale.
A 3D view of the south stand at Tottenham’s new stadium reveals a break part way up, which would allow seated supporters above to see over those standing in the row below
Beside Spurs, Crystal Palace, Swansea City, Burnley and Watford are among the other Premier League sides to be keen on safe standing.
When rail seats are adopted in the top-flight, Michael Burnett says they will represent a small proportion of the stadiums’ overall capacity: “It would be 2,000-3,000 seats.”
Despite any improvement to the atmosphere, Mr Burnett adds that safety is the primary concern of the clubs that are considering installing safe standing.
“They feel that at the moment despite the fact that you are not allowed to stand, there is persistant standing at all Premier League games. So there is a belief that if you put in stafe standing you will reduce persistant standing.”
The view is echoed by Jon Darch: “If you stand in front of a seat that only comes up to your ankles it is very easy to topple over it. This causes cuts and bruises and in some cases broken limbs. That would never happen with rail seating.”
Shrewsbury Town are set to become the first English club in any division to introduce a safe standing area to an all-seater stadium. They are currently working with Ferco Seating Ltd, with a view to completing the section before the end of this season.