Setback makes Celtic even more determined

Roadshow pitchside at Celtic Park

August 2014. Celtic Football Club issued a very strong statement on 13th August, demanding full clarification of a decision by their Safety Advisory Group not to permit at present their planned installation of rail seats.

The club said in its statement: "we believe the proposals we have made would significantly enhance safety at matches. This is a vitally important spectator-safety issue." The decision, Celtic told their supporters, left them "extremely disappointed and concerned" and advised that "in an attempt to seek clarity on this matter, we have requested a full written explanation for the judgement made".

Happily, it appears that the Safety Advisory Group had no concerns about the safety of fans standing behind rail seats (and why would they, as it is clearly safer than the current practice of standing behind conventional seats!). So what were their grounds for rejecting Celtic's proposals? Remarkably, it would appear to be that they recognised that the rail seating area will be very popular (and no doubt they are right there!) and were worried about fans from adjacent areas of conventional seating moving across into the rail seating section and making it overcrowded. Celtic proposed to manage this through the use of stewards (as is seen, for example, between home and away fans in many Premier League grounds), but for the SAG this seemed to be inadequate, as a spokesperson told the BBC website: "It is the view of agencies on the safety advisory group that some form of physical barrier between standing and seating areas is required to ensure that a standing area would be appropriately managed."

Given the role that physical structures, aka fences, have played in stadium disasters throughout the world in the past, it may seem to some bizarre to see a safety authority calling for their introduction in this scenario.

However, as the Herald Scotsman reported, "The Safety Advisory Group - chaired by Glasgow City Council - has, however, not ruled out the principle of installing rail seating at Celtic Park", saying that "A spokesman for the safety group, made up of agencies including police and the fire service, indicated the proposal could be reconsidered if issues including proper segregation and increased stewarding were addressed."

Given that the club is so determined and that the council evidently agrees that standing behind rail seats is the safer option for the club's standing fans, one can but hope that they and the club will soon reach agreement on how to kerb the enthusiasm of fans elsewhere in the ground for the exciting safe standing experience!