Safe-standing: Labour announces backing for scheme in top two tiers

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Richard Conway explains Shrewsbury Town's plans for safe standing

Labour has announced its backing for safe-standing at football grounds.

Clubs in England's top two tiers have been required by law to be all-seater since the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

Shadow sports minister Dr Rosena Allin-Khan will on Friday call for decisions on safe-standing to be devolved to clubs, fans and safety authorities.

"It's time for change. Labour's decision is the result of in-depth consultation with football clubs, fans and safety authorities," she said.

"It's time to back safe-standing. We want to give the power to fans, clubs and local safety authorities, to allow for a small area inside a stadium to be designated for safe-standing.

"Clubs, fans and local authorities know their stadium far better than anybody in Whitehall - the decision should rest with them."

Standing in English football's top two divisions was outlawed by the Football Spectators' Act in 1989, following recommendations made in the Taylor Report into the Hillsborough disaster, which claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans.

But large numbers of fans have continued to stand throughout games, and calls have grown for the all-seater requirement to be scrapped.

More than 100,000 people signed a petition which called for Premier League and Championship clubs to be allowed to have safe-standing, and the issue will be debated in Parliament on 25 June.

"This is about safety. The current system isn't working, people are standing in unsafe seated areas, and accidents can happen," Allin-Khan, the MP for Tooting, added in comments to be formally delivered at QPR's Loftus Road stadium.

"We would allow the installation of specialised rail seating where appropriate, or standing in current seated areas where it can be made safe to do so.

"The data and extent of the surveys provided by the EFL and fans' groups clearly shows that fans want safe-standing introduced."

The government is set to commission a fundamental review into the issue of standing at matches, scrutiny of which increased after it rejected a proposal by West Brom to launch a pilot scheme that would have converted 3,600 seats at The Hawthorns into 'rail seats', which can be locked in an upright position.

However, Allin-Khan says the government's actions to this point do not go far enough.

"Government ministers have dragged their feet," she said.

"They have not met safety authorities in the past two months, they haven't spoken to any supporters groups, and launched a review overnight without giving it any thought."

Clubs including Scottish champions Celtic and Germany's Hoffenheim already use pockets of rail seating, and League One side Shrewsbury Town will install more than 500 this summer.

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