LONDON: The UK Government has rejected a request from West Bromwich Albion to introduce a pilot scheme for so-called ‘safe standing’ at The Hawthorns next season.
Under the club’s proposals 3,600 seats in the Smethwick End would have been converted to ‘rail seats’, which can be locked in an upright position similar to the system widely used in the German league.
A law enforced all-seater requirements as major sports ground was introduced in response to recommendations in the Taylor Report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 96 Liverpool fans died at an FA Cup semi-final.
West Brom – who are bottom of the Premier League – hoped to install them in time for next season.
A statement issued on behalf of Tracey Crouch, the Sports Minister, has said there are no plans to relax the law.
Her Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “We have no plans to change our position and introduce standing accommodation at grounds in the top two divisions covered by the all-seater policy. Alongside the Sports Ground Safety Authority we will continue to monitor the issue of safe standing where it is permitted.”
Mark Miles, West Brom’s director of operations, said: “I think the minister has taken a short-sighted view and is preventing the club from creating a safer environment for supporters.
“The all-seater policy was developed more than 25 years ago and football is a very different place now.
“The system we proposed is well tested across Europe and has also worked successfully at Celtic, who are governed by different legislation than in England and Wales.
“We were prepared to run a pilot which would enable the club to gather data and feedback to further inform us in the issue of crowd safety.
“But I have become convinced that rail seating would enhance safety. The club is extremely disappointed with this decision and we have written back requesting a review.”