Supporters Parliament letter to supporters and a few frequently asked questions
As some fans will be aware, the Shrewsbury Town Supporters Parliament recently undertook consultation within its forum on the matter of safe standing. Following months of hard work with CEO Brian Caldwell, Safety Officer Alan Roberts and Safe Standing Roadshow operator Jon Darch, Joint Chair Roger Groves, Ex-Chair Mike Davis are pleased to announce that Shrewsbury Town have become the first EFL club to apply to the Sports Ground Safety Authority for permission to create a safe standing area at an all-seater ground.
The project has been a long time in development, with many hours of discussion, fact finding and negotiation taking place with the many parties involved. It is a supporter-led project, fully supported by the club, which is now seeking the necessary safety clearance to make this a reality. The next stage will be fundraising and to this end a crowd funding partner has been appointed.
The plan is to create a rail seating section within an area of the South Stand, providing safe standing capacity for approximately 500 people. Once the exact area is finalised, existing season ticket holders currently there will be given the first opportunity to take up a safe standing season ticket. Alternatively, they will be able to relocate to another part of the stand or ground. By installing a safe standing section, we hope to improve the atmosphere in the stadium and provide a safer area for those supporters who wish to stand.
Details regarding the fundraising will be announced shortly, but we are confident that we have the support to undertake this project, which will see our club become pioneers in this field. The future rail seating section at our ground will undoubtedly help to move the national safe standing debate forward and thus help other clubs also looking to implement safe standing in the future.
The Supporters Parliament in partnership with the football club will be holding an open meeting at 7pm on Wednesday 5th July in the Sovereign Suite at the stadium, where supporters will be given more detail on this exciting project and also have an opportunity to ask any questions. The timetable for this and the project in general will be dictated by the length of time required to obtain the necessary consents from, amongst others the Sports Ground Safety Authority and the club’s own Safety Advisory Group. As we are the first club to blaze this trail, it is not possible at this stage to foresee how long this may take.
Further statements will be issued in due course, as and when progress is made, to keep all our supporters and those supporting safe standing up to date.
Q. When will we know if this is going ahead?
A. The process put in place by the Sports Ground Safety Authority to handle applications from clubs seeking consent to install rail seating is a six-step process. We are currently at step two. As these are unchartered waters for all concerned, it is not possible to predict how long steps 3-6 may take. We hope, however, that it will be a matter of weeks, not months.
Q. When will the rail seats be fitted?
A. That is largely dependent on two factors: when approval is obtained from the SGSA and the club’s Safety Advisory Group (see answer to the question above) and how long it takes to raise the required money via the crowdfunding campaign. Our aim is to have the rail seats fitted and in use before the end of the 2017/18 season.
Q. Where will the rail seats be fitted?
A. In order to satisfy the estimated initial demand for standing spaces and to ensure that the designated standing area does not cause any sightline obstructions for seated supporters, the area being looked at is the back of the South Stand. Pending approval by the SGSA and Safety Advisory Group, it is likely to extend from Row T down to Row P and cover the full width of the stand.
Q. If I have a season ticket for a seat in the proposed rail seat area, what will my options be?
A. Assuming that the rail seating section opens in early/spring 2018, you will have two options: If you wish to join the standing section, you will be able to stay where you are and become one of the very first season ticket holders for that area. If you wish to continue watching games sat down, you will be able to relocate for the remainder of the 2017/18 season to any other available seat in the ground(excludes Sovereign Suite area) at no extra cost.
Q. How much needs to be raised?
A. This will be dependent on the final configuration of the rail seating area and any currently unforeseen conditions that Sports Ground Safety Authority and/or Safety Advisory Board may impose. It is likely to be in the region of £50-75,000.
Q. I didn’t think safe standing was allowed yet in all-seater grounds. How come Shrewsbury Town are able to do this?
A. At most all-seater grounds in England and Wales it isn’t. However, the new stadium is an exception. When the club built the ground 10 years ago, it built it as an all-seater stadium even though it was not required to do so by law. Consequently, The Oteley Road stadium is one of 29 EFL grounds (21 with terraces, 8 without) not governed by the all-seater legislation to which a new process put in place this spring applies. That process, set up by the Sports Ground Safety Authority in consultation with the EFL, makes provision for EFL clubs with grounds not covered by the all-seater law to apply for permission to install rail seating in order to create a safe standing area.
Q. How will having safe standing at The new stadium help other clubs?
A. It will help to demonstrate the benefits of safe standing to the media, the wider public, football administrators and politicians. That will hopefully make the politicians more responsive to calls for them to approve safe standing from the likes of the EFL (which is mandated by its clubs to make such calls), the FA and the EPL (where several major clubs have already incorporated rail seating into future stadium designs). By showing how it can be done, we will help to pave the way for others.
Q. How can you be sure that Shrewsbury will be the first?
A. As long as the rail seating section is opened before the end of the 2017/18 season, we are confident that the Oteley Road situated stadium will be the first all-seater league ground in England or Wales to introduce safe standing. As indicated above, most clubs with all-seater grounds in the EFL and all such clubs in the EPL are not currently permitted to create any safe standing areas. Shrewsbury Town is one of just eight EFL clubs where this is now permitted. Our understanding is that while at least one other club among that eight is looking to introduce standing at their ground in due course, this will not be during the coming season. An installation at The new stadium by May 2018 should therefore see Shrewsbury Town make history!
About the crowdfunding
Q. What is crowdfunding? How does it work?
A. Crowdfunding is a method of raising funds by inviting a large number of people (the crowd) to make individual donations towards the total fund to be raised. In return, donors typically receive a ‘reward’, often in the form of a small token of appreciation, sometimes in the form of experiences that money normally can’t buy. Crowdfunding campaigns are run almost exclusively online.
Q. Who will be running the crowdfunding campaign?
A. The campaign will be run jointly by the Shrewsbury Town Supporters’ Parliament and the Football Supporters Federation.
Q. Who do you expect to contribute to the campaign?
A. The campaign will invite donations both from Shrewsbury Town fans and supporters of safe standing from across the UK and even further afield. There will be ‘rewards’ on offer that we believe will appeal both to locally based fans and football supporters contributing from afar.
Q. When I contribute to the campaign, whose bank account will my money go into?
A. Your money will go into a dedicated bank account under the control of the Supporters Parliament.
Q. What happens if the campaign target is not reached?
A. The initial aim is to raise sufficient funds to purchase and install around 400 rail seats. If the target is missed, a smaller safe standing area will be created.
Q. What happens if the campaign target is exceeded?
A. If the campaign target is exceeded, a surplus fund will be built up to be used for future FSF-backed safe standing projects. When the campaign ends, the SP will transfer this surplus to the FSF bank account. Supporter groups of any EFL or EPL club will then have the opportunity to apply to the FSF for a grant to part-fund a safe standing project at their club. Applications will be assessed by the democratically elected FSF National Council. Your contribution will therefore not only help Shrewsbury Town to make history and give a major boost to the safe standing campaign in general, but could help other clubs – perhaps yours – to fund a safe standing project in the future as well.
Q. What happens if Shrewsbury Town get required by law to go back to normal seats?
A. Theoretically this situation could arise if the club were to play at Championship level or higher for three seasons before any change is introduced in how the all-seater legislation is applied. Although we very much hope that such a change will occur before that point is reached, the campaign target includes a contingency fund to cover this eventuality. That contingency will be held by the SP and released to the club if it is required by law to make this change. In the event that the application of the law is changed and it is clear that the club can no longer be required to revert back to normal seats, the SP will transfer the contingency fund to the FSF safe standing fund for use as outlined above.