Villa keen on safe standing trial
Aston Villa would be keen to trial the use of 'rail seats' at Villa Park to help promote the introduction of safe standing in the Barclays Premier League.
Villa's football operations manager Lee Preece was at Bristol City's Ashton Gate home where a block of rail seats, which can be flipped into an upright position to create rows of standing areas, were installed at an English football ground for the first time.
But current legislation means, when more rails seats are installed as part of City's redevelopment, only Bristol Rugby supporters will be able to use them.
Having watched a demonstration of the seats in action, Preece explained that Villa are keen to join Bristol City in playing their part to further the campaign.
"We at Aston Villa have said we are quite happy to use an area of Villa Park as a trial so the Premier League, the authorities and the Government can see a safe standing area in practice," he told Press Association Sport.
"A survey carried out earlier in the year surveyed over 1,000 of our supporters and in the region of 96/97 per cent wanted to see a return of standing areas.
"I'd like to think it could happen in the Premier League. The main thing from Villa's perspective is we have put our head above the parapet simply to further the debate - we think people should be looking at it.
"There are clearly lots of sensitive issues and debates at high level that need to take place if we are to get to a point where legislation can change.
"But it is the sensible and practical solution to an issue that exists in football at the moment. There is still work to do but let's have those discussions and see if we can't make it happen."
Preece believes one of the key factors behind his club's openness to change is the problems they currently have with supporters who persistently stand.
"Like most Premier League clubs we suffer at the moment with persistent standing in seating areas in certain parts of the ground," he said.
"It would be safe to say that the vast majority of away fans at Villa Park this season have stood up and don't want to sit down, I don't think any Premier League club to my knowledge has any success with various tactics that get people to sit down.
"We feel there are clearly thousands of people who want to stand up to watch football matches and so let's do it in something which is designed for standing."
The Football Supporters' Federation has long been an advocate of rail seating and chairman Malcolm Clarke told Press Association Sport that the green light from the Football League's 72 clubs at their meeting last week is a big step forward.
"What we were often told for many years is that none of the football authorities were in favour of it," he explained. "But that is clearly no longer the case as the Football League, after a very thorough consultation, have shown that a large majority are in favour.
"We hope that the Premier League now, at the appropriate time, will consider this. There are a number of Premier League clubs who are openly in favour and then we can take the debate forward.
"It has been really useful to see rail seats installed in a proper football stadium."
All-seater stadiums have been compulsory in the Premier League and Championship since the reports into the Hillsborough disaster. And chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group Margaret Aspinall, who lost her son in the 1989 tragedy, criticised the timing of the current debate with new inquests into the disaster set to start.
"I find it very insensitive at this moment in time because obviously the most important thing for the families is these inquests," she told BBC Sport.
"I just wish them 96 could have been at an all-seater stadium. It cost them their lives for us to try and make it safe for everybody else, so please try and understand our position. We are not opposing. We are not against you. All we want is your safety."
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