League One side Bristol City have installed controversial new rail seats at their stadium in a bid to promote the reintroduction of safe standing areas.
The Robins plan to begin redevelopment of their Ashton Gate ground this summer and hope to include rail seating, where seats can be flipped into an upright position to create rows of standing areas, in two of their stands, subject to the relevant legal hurdles being cleared.
On Wednesday morning the Robins, along with Bristol Rugby Club who will move into Ashton Gate in September, unveiled a demonstration block which shows what could be expected if the Football League is successful in their government-lobbying for a change in the legislation which has been in place since the reports into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
Rail seats, which have proved popular among supporters in Germany's Bundesliga, in particular, and include a safety barrier on every row, are not currently permitted in the Sky Bet Championship, which insists its clubs play in all-seater stadia.
— BBC Points West (@bbcpointswest) February 12, 2014
To Ashton Gate where Bristol City will unveil country's 1st safe standing rail seats, as controversial campaign for terracing gathers pace — Dan Roan (@danroan) February 12, 2014
But last week's Football League's meeting saw strong support from its 72 clubs for the authorities to relax and change the current regulations, and their representatives were present on Wednesday, along with those from the Football Association, to see the demonstration in action.
Liberal Democrat spokesman for Culture, Media & Sport John Leech said: "I pay tribute to Bristol's football and rugby clubs for actually going ahead and taking the plunge with this trial. It has created a lot of interest.
"I just think it is an extra piece of the jigsaw in place and I firmly believe it will only be a matter of time before we see safe standing at both Championship and Premier League matches."
Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters' Federation, added: "What we were often told for many years is that none of the football authorities were in favour of it.
"But that is clearly no longer the case as the Football League, after a very thorough consultation, have shown that a large majority are in favour.
"We hope that the Premier League now, at the appropriate time, will consider this - there are a number of Premier League clubs who are openly in favour - and then we can take the debate forward again."
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