Celtic are set to install rail seats into their ground after their local Safety Advisory Group today approved the club’s request to introduce a safe standing area.
The rail seating area will initially accommodate up to 2,600 supporters and could potentially be introduced for the start of the 2016/17 season.
Both the club’s Chief Executive Peter Lawwell and Chairman Ian Bankier have backed safe standing in the past year and continually pursued its introduction at Celtic Park. This followed a number of visits by the FSF-supported Safe Standing Roadshow.
Celtic Chief Executive Peter Lawwell said: “Celtic has worked tirelessly on this issue and we are delighted that this permission has finally been granted.
“The introduction of rail seating at Celtic Park represents an investment in spectator safety. Across football globally, the reality is that some supporters are choosing to stand at matches.
"This is something we must accept and manage and also understand the positive effect which these areas have on atmosphere at matches”.
Safe standing is the solution
Lawwell said that young fans brought an “awful lot to the game” in terms of atmosphere and that safe standing areas were the “ultimate solution” for persistent standing in seated areas.
Lawwell has said previously that Glasgow City Council, police, ambulance, and fire service had to be convinced. That process now looks to be complete. Significantly he also added that he did not believe legislative change was required in Holyrood to allow safe standing.
The Celtic fans' group, the Celtic Trust, said: "We at the Celtic Trust are delighted that this proposal, which we originally put to Celtic over three years ago is now going to happen. The provision of both seated and standing areas to accommodate different tastes will make Celtic Park an even more attractive and exciting place than ever."
While this doesn’t yet mean that English or Welsh clubs can have safe standing areas in Premier League or Championship matches it is a significant development for the FSF’s Safe Standing Campaign.
Celtic Park holds 60,000 fans and many clubs south of the border will begin to ask why they shouldn’t be allowed to follow the same path. Peter Daykin, the FSF's safe standing campaign co-ordinator: "Everybody at Celtic, the local Safety Advisory group and Scottish Government deserve a pat on the back for this. Celtic deserve praise for being brave enough to pursue this and for listening to its fans."
Bristol City – rail seat pioneers
However, Celtic aren’t the first club to install rail seats into their ground in the UK – that honour goes to Bristol City. The Robins installed a demonstration block at Ashton Gate back in February as an example of the benefits it could bring, should legislation be changed.
Due to current legislation these areas cannot currently be used for any football games, although they can be used for rugby games, perfectly highlighting the absurdity of current regulations.
The club hope to incorporate almost 3,800 rail seats into the redeveloped Ashton Gate Stadium, should rail seat areas be given the nod for football.
Calls for Welsh pilot
Earlier this year, the FSF attended the launch of a report by the Welsh Conservatives at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, which showed that 96% of fans supported the introduction of safe standing.
Safe standing has cross-party support in the Welsh Assembly. Led by the Welsh Conservatives, the Assembly now backs a the start of a safe standing pilot in Wales.
Is a pilot across Wales the next step? Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said: "This development is simple common sense and will help our case for a pilot here in Wales.
"This legislation was drafted in a different era and bears no relevance to the modern game and advances in stadium technology.
"If only political thinking would catch up!"
What can I do to back safe standing?
The FSF encourages all fans to contact their club and outline exactly why they feel safe standing should be introduced into football grounds in England and Wales (SD Scotland represent fans north of the border).
It’s probably better to use your own form of words but if you need a little guidance, or would just prefer to use a template, see this link. Should your club disagree, this Mythbuster might come in handy too.
Now that the Football League formally backs a safe standing trial, the majority of clubs are on side, although it never hurts to reiterate your support to them.
If you’d like to go one step further and survey your club’s supporters – like fans’ groups at Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Norwich City and Spurs have done – contact the FSF and we’d be happy to help.
Thanks to Iain Mullan for the image used in this post. Reproduced here under CC license.