Liverpool are to trial temporary rail seating at Anfield next season as part of a continuing review over safety.
The subject has been a difficult one for the club to approach over the years because they are sensitive to the families of the 96 people who died after the terrace crush at Hillsborough in 1989.
However, they have been in regular dialogue with representatives and wrote to all the families on Monday and Margaret Aspinall, who lost her 18-year-old son James and is the former chair of the disbanded Hillsborough Family Support Group, has given her support.
“I can’t speak for the families because they will have their own opinions but I’ve no issues at all with that because we’ve always campaigned for fans’ safety,” she told the PA news agency.
“I think it is important after you heard about the lad at Wembley who fell (from a stand at England’s Euro 2020 match against Croatia on Sunday).
“At first I didn’t want any form of safe standing but I have changed my opinion because you see people standing, only at certain times, and the seat is still there for them to sit back down again and the rails are there to stop them falling over.
“I would have a different opinion if all the seating was taken out. I had seen rail seating previously and I disagreed with them at the time but you come to realise the paying fans get excited.
“I am guilty myself; at a game when Liverpool scored I stood up, excited, so I’m no different from anyone else.”
A review by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) highlighted persistent standing during matches in the Kop and Anfield Road lower tier is an issue that needs to be addressed to ensure supporters’ safety.
Liverpool have had a plan to manage persistent standing for many years but following the SGSA’s most recent review it is now advising the installation of safety rails in the Kop (1,800) and Anfield Road Stand (6,000) in the Anfield Road Stand lower tier.
The club have stressed Anfield will remain an all-seater stadium and the trialled areas with the new seats and safety rails are not ‘safe standing’ areas.
“The safety of our supporters when they come to Anfield is our absolute priority and we are fully committed to working with the SGSA on the trial of these new seats,” managing director Andy Hughes said.
“It is critical that we listen to the experts and deliver their recommendations to address this safety issue.
“We will complete a full review of the trial in 12 months at the end of next season.”
The ground is also set for a major £60 million redevelopment after planning permission was granted by Liverpool City Council to build a new Anfield Road Stand which will add 7,000 seats and take the capacity above 61,000.
Work will involve rerouting the existing Anfield Road around the new development, skirting the edge of Stanley Park, and then building behind the current stand with a view to joining up the old and new structures in the close season – thereby lessening the impact on the overall capacity.
The project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2023 and Hughes said: “This is a huge milestone in our journey towards bringing more supporters into Anfield.
“We have been clear from the beginning that this expansion would be based on our ability to successfully navigate the complex planning landscape; our ability to gain co-operation of local residents and the community; and our ability to ensure the project is financially viable.
“In what has been a very unpredictable year, we are seeking certainty in order to progress with this project and there are still some steps we need to take to get there.”
As part of the planning application the club have also been given permission to hold up to six concerts and major events – such as American and Gaelic football – per year at the stadium for a period of five years.