This weekend, Liverpool fans came together at the city’s Liner Hotel to debate safe standing and the position Liverpool fan group Spirit of Shankly should take on the rail seating.
FSF caseworker Amanda Jacks was one of the panel members, along with SGSA inspector Rick Riding and SoS chair Jay McKenna, to speak to the audience of around 100 supporters for the two-and-a-half-hour discussion.
“The tone was sombre and earnest,” Amanda said. “Around a third of the room were against the idea of safe standing. But their views weren’t heckled or derided in any way.
“It was a very constructive and respectful meeting.”
The debate was hosted by leading Liverpool fan group the Spirit of Shankly as part of a thorough process to determine what the group’s public position on rail seating should be - the most common form of safe standing found in new grounds and most likely form to be adopted in England.
“Around two-thirds of the meeting were in favour of safe standing and atmosphere was the most common reason fans wanted to see it.”
Amanda, who thanked Liverpool FC for their public statement on the issue this week, told the meeting that safe standing offers choice. Survey after survey shows supporters want safe standing, even if they themselves want to sit.
“It was good to see Liverpool praise the way in which Spirit of Shankly and other supporters had conducted themselves throughout this process,” Amanda said.
“One supporter said fans must carry Liverpool Football Club with them. But you have to ask, how realistic is that?
"It’s important that the world of football is as respectful as it can be to the views of those firmly against the introduction of safe standing areas.
“But ultimately football clubs need to address the needs of their fan base in the same way that Celtic FC have done.”
Hillsborough makes the safe standing issue uniquely complicated on Merseyside and the public debate on Saturday followed an earlier private discussion between Spirit of Shankly and the Hillsborough families.
Amanda said that one of the most noteworthy contributions to Saturday’s debate was from Becky Shah, whose mother Inger was among the 96 killed at Hillsborough.
“The irony is I’ve been priced out of the game I love as a consequence of my mother’s death,” Becky said. “I would like to see the working class game returned into the hands of the working classes and safe standing is a mechanism to do it.
“We are already standing on the Kop and at away games. It’s now time to make it safe.”
While the majority of fans back safe standing for reasons relation to atmosphere and safety, supporters do look to the continent where standing areas are traditionally cheaper.
The vote to determine Spirit of Shankly’s position on rail seating is still open, with results expected to be published on Monday 31st July.
Thanks to Steve Powell for the imaged used in this article.