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Shrewsbury Town bidding to be the first English club to introduce safe standing at its ground

Shrewsbury Town are planning to become the first club in England to introduce a safe-standing area for their fans - possibly as early as the upcoming season.

Shrewsbury Town chief executive Brian Caldwell
Shrewsbury Town chief executive Brian Caldwell

The pioneering move comes after a request from the club’s fans’ parliament – who hope to raise up to £75,000 via a crowd-funding campaign to pay for the project.

If successful, around 500 safe-standing places will be installed behind the goal at the Salop Leisure South Stand.

The fundraising campaign is due to be run by sports crowd-funding experts Tifosy, who have previously run campaigns for more than £100,000 with EFL clubs such as Fulham, Portsmouth and Bradford City, and will be open to Town fans as well as other football supporters across the country who are keen to see safe-standing areas given their chance.

The plan is to have the back five rows of seating in blocks 8-12 replaced with ‘rail’ seating’ – identical to those installed at Celtic Park in Glasgow.

Safe standing at Celtic Park in Glasgow

Existing season ticket-holders in the seats affected would be given the chance to be the first to take one of the safe-standing spaces or to be relocated elsewhere in the ground.

Letters and emails are being sent out to all South Stand season tickets holders about the move and about 230 are directly affected by their seats being in the area being considered for safe-standing.

The rail-seats allow fans to stand but also include a fold-down seat should the need arise for the area to be made a seated section for any particular game or event.

The club are eager to support the move and has already submitted an application for a licence to Shropshire Council’s safety advisory group.

It is hoped that will be granted and the proposal could then move forward to the national Sports Ground Safety Authority for approval.

Town chief executive Brian Caldwell said he was excited by the project which, if successful, would see the new rail-seating manufactured and installed by Atcham-based Ferco Seating – the same company that installed the safe-standing area at Celtic Park.

Mr Caldwell said Shrewsbury Town’s safety officer Alan Roberts had already visited Celtic Park – and even watched the first half of a recent game from the safe-standing area.

“His response to me was that it was incredibly safe,” said Mr Caldwell.

“He stood in the safe-standing area for the first half and he was very impressed.”

The Town chief executive added: “This is very much a supporter-led initiative and we are very keen to support it.

“There is already a section of our home supporters who stand to watch the game in areas like block 19 in what is actually a seated area. This would be a much safer option.

“It would be rail-seating designed for safe standing so people wouldn’t be falling over seat-backs in front of them.

“Hopefully it would improve the atmosphere at our home games too and really help the team on the pitch.”

A question-and-answer document has been written by fans’ parliament representatives for supporters, outlining the hope to have safe-standing installed during the upcoming season – possibly as early as spring next year.

That would depend on the success of the crowd-funding initiative as well as the speed of the process.

Fans’ parliament joint chairman Roger Groves and former chairman Mike Davis are hopeful the necessary licence could be granted ‘in weeks rather than months’.

But they admit they are in ‘uncharted waters’ as no club in England has yet gone so far down the road towards safe-standing.

Mr Groves said: “There’s a clear demand from our fans for an area where they can stand safely. We see that at every game with several hundred choosing to stand at their seats, which is not altogether safe.

“Rail seats will ensure that nobody falls over no matter how wildly they celebrate a goal and, by having a dedicated standing area, we believe that the overall atmosphere in the stadium will also be enhanced.

“For all those fans who prefer to sit, it will additionally mean that there will be no standing fans in their part of the ground spoiling their view.”

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