Belfast Telegraph

Rival fans help Shrewsbury edge closer to funding target for rail seats

A contribution from Bristol City fans has taken Shrewsbury's safe-standing fund over £50,000, 80 per cent of the total needed to install nearly 600 rail seats this season.

This summer, Shrewsbury announced their plans to become the first club in England or Wales to introduce a standing section at a previously all-seater stadium and a crowdfunding campaign was started.

The original plan was to raise £75,000 to install 550 rail seats at New Meadow but further talks between the seats' manufacturer and the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) mean only £62,500 is now required for 574 seats.

With more than 850 contributors, including a £150 cheque from the Bristol City Supporters Club & Trust, the fund is now only £12,500 short of its target.

Roger Groves from the Shrewsbury Town Supporters Parliament told Press Association Sport that fans from clubs around the country have chipped in, as well as supporters groups from Chelsea, Manchester United, Spurs and West Ham.

Explaining the recalculated target, Groves said: "Following discussions with the Shrewsbury-based seat manufacturer, Ferco Seating, and the national Sports Ground Safety Authority, it became apparent that the original specification for the area included a superfluous row of rail seating barriers hard up against the rear wall of the stand.

"We therefore revisited the plans and were able to reduce the total funds needed to £62,500, while still providing the 574 spaces we originally planned.

"That is a great unexpected boost for the campaign and I must say a big thank you to the SGSA for their expert guidance. With a big push now from all Shrews fans and supporters of safe-standing nationwide we should soon be there."

Football grounds in England's top two divisions have been all-seater by law ever since Lord Justice Taylor's report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which left 96 Liverpool fans dead.

For several years, however, f ans all over the UK have been calling for that rule to be relaxed and an increasing number of clubs appear to agree with them, as does the English Football League.

A major hurdle to the return of standing sections in English grounds was cleared this summer when Liverpool fans voted in favour of introducing rail seats to Anfield.

But the government, backed by senior figures at the Premier League, remains to be convinced, although Celtic's successful trial of rail seats is starting to change minds, as Scottish clubs are not subject to the all-seater requirement.

Rail seats are flipped up and locked in place when fans are using them as standing areas, and there is a safety barrier that separates each row to prevent surges. To help with crowd control, fans are assigned a space that corresponds to the seat number.

Shrewsbury's crowdfunding site can be found at www.tifosy.com/shrews and any surplus funds will go into a Football Supporters Federation pot to fund safe-standing projects at other clubs.

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