Liverpool fans vote in favour of rail seating - but how does it work, and how safe is it?

Liverpool fans vote in favour of rail seating - what is it?

88% of a poll sample for Liverpool fans voted in favour of safe standing (Credit: Twitter @FootballBurnley)

Monday, July 31, 2017

A cross-section of Liverpool fans have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the reintroduction of safe standing, in what could be a major step towards the return of terracing at England's top-flight football grounds. 

Of the 18,000 fans who took part in the week-long poll by the Spirit of Shankly supporters' group, 88% voted in favour of a new technology known as rail seating.

The news carries major significance given it was a disaster involving Liverpool supporters, the Hillsborough stadium disaster in 1989, which led to a ban on standing terraces in English football's top division.

But, if rail seating does come in, how exactly will it work? And, even more importantly, is it actually safe enough to allow football fans to stand again?


The technology

Rail seating is essentially, a form of retractable seating. The seats can be folded up within metal frames when they aren’t required, with the frame becoming a safety barrier dividing the terraces into rows - and preventing crushes from building up.

For domestic matches, the seats would remain locked in position, while they would be unlocked for European matches to comply with the regulations put in place by Uefa, European football's governing body.

There are various different types of mechanism to choose from. Some types of rail seats use a locking mechanism; others flip up and down on a spring. German club Hamburg have even introduced a foldaway seat which can be hidden under the stand and brought out for European games.

The YouTube videos below show how the 'lock-up' version would work in practice.




Is it safe?

Well the technology is already in place at Celtic's stadium in Glasgow, and the results have been hugely positive.

In 2016, a section of 2,975 rail seats were installed in the Lisbon Lions Stand in the close season. The trial was so successful that Tottenham Hotspur are looking at the technology with a view to a trial at their new stadium.

In Germany, where rail seating is commonplace, the technology is proven to be safe; in fact there has never been a major crowd safety incident in the history of the German Bundesliga. So the evidence suggests that the technology would withstand the huge crowds of the Premier League.

Whether the league's chairman will want to rip out their expensive seats and risk a return to the rowdier days of the pre-1992 era, however, remains to be seen.