Safe standing: Bristol City plan to install rail seats at Ashton Gate

League One Bristol City plan to become the first club in the United Kingdom to install rail seats, which have been pioneered in the German Bundesliga.

The seats can either be unlocked or locked to create a standing or seated area inside a stadium.

Regulations currently prohibit their use in football, so they will initially be used for rugby games at Ashton Gate.

The Football League has agreed to lobby the Government in a bid to permit "safe standing" areas in the game.

All-seater stadiums have been compulsory in the Premier League and Championship since an inquiry into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans.

What are rail seats?

Rail Seats at Ashton Gate
  • Rail seats are used at some grounds in countries including Austria, Germany and Sweden
  • They are used by a number of teams in Germany's Bundesliga, including Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, Hamburg and Werder Bremen
  • The seats can be unlocked or locked, to create either a standing or seated area. In Germany, the seats are put up for league games, but lowered for European matches

Standing is currently allowed in Leagues One and Two, but Championship grounds must be all-seater after a club have played in the second tier for three seasons.

Some Football League clubs have backed calls for the introduction of standing areas and campaigners believe rail seats provide a safer alternative to 'old-style' terraces, which did little to stop the forward movement of fans.

Rail seating is used at some of Germany's biggest grounds, including at Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion, which has a capacity of more than 80,000. They are also approved for use as seats by Uefa and Fifa.

Bristol City intend to install the new seating in two stands as part of the redevelopment of Ashton Gate.

In their support of the concept, the club have have installed a demonstration block for spectators to see how it may look if it were made legal.

It is in an area of the ground not currently used, but will give fans an idea of what the proposed new areas would look like.

The demonstration block was unveiled in front of dignitaries from the Football Association and Football League on Wednesday.

"It's a big moment for the football community as a whole," said Martin Griffiths, chairman of Bristol Sport, who are overseeing the development of Ashton Gate.

He told BBC Radio Bristol: "The way rail seating has been implemented on the continent has made standing safe in the eyes of the football authorities over there.

"All we've done here is try and give the standing debate a tangible form. We've built some rail seating so people can have a look and form their own views.

"This has come from consultation with the fans. The fans have said they want to stand - at football and rugby - and we've responded to that."

Bristol City's development of Ashton Gate starts in the summer, and Bristol Rugby will ground-share with them from the start of the 2014-15 season.

The all-seated Wedlock Stand will be replaced with a new stand and plans are in place to install 2,202 rail seats, if regulations permit it.

Further redevelopment in the Dolman Stand, to the side of the pitch, could see a further 1,568 rail seats incorporated in the stadium.

"The time is right for us to install rail seating," said Bristol City chief executive Doug Harman.

"We've got redevelopment plans and we have Bristol Rugby coming down in the summer. There's also a ground swell of opinion from supporters saying they would like to stand at football.

"The pieces of the jigsaw are coming together. It's the initiative we were looking for to kick-start this campaign."