Ninety-three per cent of LSU members voted in favour of a discussion about safe standing at Anfield. Photograph: Nick Taylor/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
Liverpool supporters’ union Spirit of Shankly is to consult the club’s fans and Hillsborough families over the possible introduction of standing sections at Premier League grounds.
LSU members were asked at last month’s AGM whether the organisation should adopt a position on rail seating, following discussions with fellow supporters, and 93% voted in favour it was announced on Wednesday, while 4.7% were against and 2.3% abstained. The proposal was in response to growing debate over the introduction of safe standing areas in the top two tiers of English football, including at government level, and Celtic’s decision to open a 2,600-capacity standing section this season.
Scottish clubs are not bound by the all-seater regulations that were introduced into English football by Lord Justice Taylor’s report into the Hillsborough disaster, when 96 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed at an FA Cup semi-final in 1989. The prospect of standing returning to Premier League and Championship grounds in any form – it is allowed at League One and Two level – remains a contentious and understandably emotive issue for those affected by Hillsborough, and opinion is divided. The Hillsborough Family Support Group are strongly opposed while the Hillsborough Justice Campaign, in a statement on its Facebook page, said: “There has always been a variety of views amongst HJC members. We do however, support a full and objective debate on the issue with safety being paramount.”
LSU members voted unanimously in favour of a proposal for the union to “adopt a position on rail seating and embark on a period of consultation and engagement with supporters to determine what that position is”. The union’s management committee plans to hold public meetings to gauge opinion and will meet with representatives of the Hillsborough families before clarifying its position. There are no plans at this stage to ask Liverpool to introduce a rail seating area at Anfield.
The proposal put to last month’s AGM explained: “There have been ongoing campaigns for the implementation of ‘rail seating’ at football grounds, similar to those often found in Germany. This has been alongside ongoing debate about supporters who currently stand in seated areas. It should be recognised and acknowledged that this occurs.
“LSU has never formally adopted a position on ‘rail seating’, ‘safe standing’ or these matters by whichever name it goes by. The debate, in recent months has moved on, following the implementation of rail seating at Celtic and with football clubs openly discussing the idea. Supporters at other clubs are actively campaigning for the introduction of rail seating. Whilst LSU recognises that opinion amongst our fan base is divided, with supporters and Hillsborough campaigners and groups on both sides of the debate, our stance and opinion on such matters should be one directed by our members.”
The Football Supporters Federation supports a safe standing campaign but Walton Labour MP Steve Rotheram, who was at Hillsborough in 1989 and whose constituency covers Anfield and Goodison Park, has voiced his opposition and questioned whether its introduction would reduce ticket prices.
Celtic’s safe standing section could have ramifications for English football with the sports minister Tracey Crouch saying last year that the government will assess its impact. “The government is not at present persuaded by the case put forward to re-introduce standing accommodation in grounds covered by the all-seater requirement,” she said. “We will, however, monitor its introduction in Scotland closely and reassess this position once evidence from the Scottish experience is available.”