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Manchester City to install more than 5,000 rail seats

Manchester City have announced that they will be the latest Premier League club to install rail seating at their ground, anticipating a change in Government legislation.

This summer the club will begin installing 5,620 rail seats in the lower tier of the Etihad Stadium’s south stand – including the south east and south west corners to “enhance supporter safety”.

Manchester City managing director Danny Wilson said: “The development and installation of a bespoke rail seating system at the Etihad Stadium will not only improve supporter safety but also ensures that until there is a change in legislation which permits safe standing, the matchday experience of supporters and season card holders in the lower tier of the south stand will remain unaffected.

“Whilst we will continue to remind supporters that they should remain seated during matches, we are also pleased to inform them that the installation of a rail seating area means the Etihad Stadium will be ready and prepared should the Government bring forward legislation to introduce safe standing in the Premier League.”

The FSA has been in dialogue with the FA, leagues and many clubs, including Manchester City, for years on the issue of standing accommodation – the club hosted the ‘Safe Standing Roadshow’ more than 10 years ago.

Manchester City’s atmosphere group 1894 said: “It’s been a long road. City fans have campaigned for safe standing for over two decades.

“Back in 2000, fanzine editor Phill Gatenby, who was a prominent member of the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) went to see the club to talk about safe standing but the idea of it was rejected out of sight.

“1894 picked up the campaign in 2014 and have pressed the club privately and publicly. We have displayed our banners at the Etihad and also shared them with other groups nationwide.”

“We hope that this is a genuine attempt to work with fans to improve the atmosphere and that the club uses this opportunity to make a real success of it. One way to do this is to ensure the pricing structure is good. The club need to reduce or at the very least freeze season ticket prices now and the prices for the new rail seating areas needs to be attractive enough for people to want to be in there.”

Manchester City follow Wolves and Tottenham Hotspur in providing rail seating in their grounds. Last spring, Manchester United also announced their intention to introduce rail seating at Old Trafford.

Before that, Shrewsbury Town were the first team in English football to install rail seating at their ground, incorporating 500 rail seats at New Meadow back in 2018.

General secretary of Manchester City’s Official Supporters’ Club Kevin Parker said: “The Official Supporters’ Club, 1894 Group and more recently the City Matters Committee have had ongoing dialogue with City for many years now on safe standing areas.

“We are therefore delighted that the club is now changing 5,620 seats to rail seating in the south stand area of the stadium.

“This is a move in the right direction and we thank City and all involved for their co-operation in getting where we are today.”

Standing legislation

In February 2020 the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) reported that standing options – such as rail seats and seats with barriers – had improved safety in the top flight.

This followed a commitment in January 2020 by sports minister Nigel Adams that the Government was “keen to deliver” its pledge on allowing standing sections to be introduced in the top two divisions.

“Over a million people watch live football at a ground every week, and having spoken to fans across the country, I know that safe standing is an issue many feel passionately about.

“However it is imperative that football remains as safe as it has become over the past 25 years. Robust evidence that this change will provide equivalent or improved safety for supporters, will be absolutely paramount to this process,” said Adams.

All was set before COVID-19 swept the globe and, when football returned, it was largely behind-closed-doors with no opportunity to run the research without fans in the stands.

What next?

The SGSA has continued to consult supporters – earlier this year we helped them survey match-going fans at a number of clubs and spoke to hundreds of safety officers at their annual conference in September 2019.

We’ll continue to make the case for different types of standing accommodation – rail seats, seats with barriers, existing licenced standing areas – being available as a menu of options for clubs and local safety advisory groups to consider.

The SGSA’s ideas to engage both away fans and disabled fans, ensuring that standing areas are accessible for all sections of match-goers, are welcome too. Standing areas give supporters choice, improve atmospheres, and reduce tensions between stewards and fans.

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