Wolves to lead the way in battle for safe standing, piloting rail seating at Molineux
It's time to take a stand.
Wolverhampton Wanderers have become the first Premier League team to pilot rail seating, which could be used as a safe standing solution if the government implement the necessary legislation.
In a statement on their website, Wolves said: "Three rail-seat solutions have been installed in a currently unused block of the Billy Wright Stand, with two further options due to be installed this week, to illustrate various seating options that can now be installed in stadiums after new guidance was added to the Sports Grounds Safety Authority’s Green Guide, published last year."
It is currently banned for any club in the top two tiers of English football to have a standing section, however the latest edition of the Green Guide contains guidelines on the use of ‘seats incorporating barriers’.
"It has been confirmed by the Sports Ground Safety Authority that, provided certain strict conditions are met, both independent barriers and seats incorporating barriers can be licensed as compliant with the government’s all-seater policy," the statement continued.
Safe standing has already been introduced in Germany and Scotland, with Borussia Dortmund's famous 'yellow wall' an example of it working well, and Celtic's safe standing section demonstrating its benefits for, and compatibility with British football.
Crystal Palace supporters group the Holmesdale Fanatics also have an unofficial standing section at Selhurst Park, despite the lack of rail seating. The group have campaigned for it to be installed in the past, unveiling banners calling on chairman Steve Parish to act on their wishes.
Wolves' statement continued: "In collaboration with expert manufacturers of such spectator seating Ferco Seating Systems, Grandstand Seating Systems, Alderdale Seating Ltd and safe-standing campaigner Jon Darch, the club has installed the examples of this seating so they can be viewed and assessed by both the club’s Safety Advisory Group (SAG) and members of the Fans’ Parliament over the coming months.
"Last season Wolves managing director Laurie Dalrymple confirmed the club’s interest in Molineux being utilised for any future safe-standing pilot scheme (link), and was delighted to be able to offer the SAG and supporters the chance to preview potential seating solutions of the future."
Dalrymple said: “As a club we are keen to be at the forefront of innovation and progression, so the opportunity to install these examples of potential safe-standing solutions was one that we were very happy to explore.
“Whilst the seats themselves will not be operational or used at matches, we are now able to give our Fan’s Parliament group and local authority the opportunity to view all the options before some of these solutions become commonplace in UK stadiums.
“We are now actively working on plans regarding the development and expansion of Molineux in line with the club’s ambitions on and off the pitch, and we see this as another example of how we plan to meet supporters’ expectations and desires as we deliver a stadium that meets all of our requirements.”
Safe-standing campaigner Jon Darch said: “It is fitting that Molineux should be the first operational stadium in the Premier League to install rail-seating as it was the first ground I took the Safe Standing Roadshow to in 2011, for a presentation to the Fans’ Parliament.
“We anticipate that in the future Safety Advisory Groups will be looking closely at clubs with areas of persistent standing, and will most likely encourage them to enhance spectator safety in those areas by installing rail seats like those now on show at Molineux.
“I also anticipate that in time legislation will change to allow clubs to operate areas fitted with such seating as formal standing areas. That could potentially happen this year.”