Liverpool FC today spoke about the “complex and difficult” position for the club and its supporters around the current debate on rail seating – and called for respect for the views of the Hillsborough families.
It came as Liverpool supporters union Spirit of Shankly (SOS) holds private meetings on Tuesday with Hillsborough families to discuss the issue of so-called safe standing.
That precedes a public meeting on Saturday at the Liner Hotel in Liverpool city centre to establish whether SOS will take a position for or against the re-introduction of some form of standing at Anfield.
Liverpool’s position as a club has been guided by the views of the majority of the Hillsborough families as represented by the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) – and the club thanked supporters for waiting until the conclusion of the inquests into the disaster last year before moving forward with the debate.
That HFSG position has been opposed to any return to standing which the families have viewed as a backwards step.
Standing areas have been banned in the top two divisions of English football since the 1990 Taylor Report into the Hillsborough disaster.
However the successful introduction of rail seating at Glasgow Celtic has provided the catalyst to a new debate around the issue in England.
The Premier League wrote to all 20 of its clubs last month to assess if they would be interested in trialling safe standing. Meanwhile League One Shrewsbury has applied to have rail seats at their Greenhous Meadow stadium before the end of this season.
Liverpool have now spoken in detail about the current debate for the first time and said they will listen to the views of their supporters – while continuing to stress the current legal requirements for all-seater stadia.
Tony Barrett, Liverpool’s head of club and fan liaison, told the ECHO: “We note the recent discussions about rail seating and would like to place on record our thanks to fans who have waited until a suitable juncture in the ongoing Hillsborough proceedings before entering into a debate.
“Whilst we respect both the campaign and support the principle of a considered, reasonable debate, it should be stressed that current legislation requires the stadia of all Premier League clubs to be all-seater, a situation which we continue to comply with.
“Furthermore, the tragic events of April 15, 1989 means we and our supporters are in a uniquely complex and difficult position as far as the current debate is concerned and we would appeal to all fans to continue to be respectful of the Hillsborough families and take their views into account during whatever deliberations take place.
“Unless and until there is a change in legislation, all debate will remain hypothetical but, as ever, we will listen to the views of our fans and look to offer the best possible match-going experience in whatever form that may take place.”
The issue of rail seating is likely to be a significant one for Liverpool and Barrett in his new role. He travelled to Celtic last season to witness the workings of rail seating for himself while researching an in-depth series of articles around the debate for his previous employers at Joe.co.uk.