Premier League clubs ask officials to gather more information over safe standing sections

Discussions between clubs and the league were held on Thursday

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The Independent Online

Premier League clubs have asked league officials to gather more information on the legal and safety issues linked to the return of standing sections in grounds after their first formal talks on the subject.

Top-flight clubs have been all-seater since Lord Justice Taylor's report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster that left 96 Liverpool fans dead.

But support for a return of so-called safe-standing sections has been growing in recent years and clubs asked the Premier League to put the issue on the agenda of Thursday's routine shareholders' meeting in London for the first time.

A Premier League spokesman said: "Premier League clubs today held initial discussions on safe standing.

"Given that fan safety is of paramount concern, clubs are understandably cautious and there was no overall consensus on the matter.

"This is a complex and emotive topic with a number of issues, varying from club to club, which need to be considered carefully before clubs can decide if they wish to pursue any changes, including legislative, that are required to allow them the option of safe standing areas in their grounds.

"The clubs have tasked the Premier League with scoping out the safety, supporter, technical and legislative issues surrounding safe standing before any further discussions, based on the facts, can take place."

Chief among these "issues" will be getting the latest view from the government - it has traditionally deferred to what the clubs and the police have told them is necessary for crowd safety but, with those views now starting to shift, ministers may be ready to drop the all-seater requirement.

Former Liberal Democrat MP John Leech, who has campaigned for standing's return for several years, welcomed the Premier League's decision to start talks on the matter and added his voice to those calling for the rail seats that are widely used in Germany and Scandinavia, and have been successfully trialled by Celtic.

celtic-fans.jpg
Celtic have introduced safe standing (Getty)

Rail seats can be flipped up and locked in place to create a space to stand behind a metal safety bar.

"The current system simply doesn't work; fans who attend matches still continue to stand, but do so unsafely," said Leech, a season ticket-holder at Manchester City, one of the clubs understood to be most interested in a rail-seat section.

"The solution is to introduce railed safe-standing at football grounds which will make it safer for spectators, and which recognises and accommodates those fans who already, and will continue in the future to stand, while watching football." 

PA.

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