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West Brom have safe standing proposal rejected by government

The Hawthorns, home of West Bromwich Albion
West Bromwich Albion hoped to install rail seats at The Hawthorns before the start of next season.

West Bromwich Albion have announced that a proposal to introduce safe standing at The Hawthorns has been rejected by the UK government.

The club had hoped to install 3,600 rail seats in the Smethwick End for home and away fans in time for the 2018-19 season, but Tracey Crouch, the Minister for Sport, decided not to modify the policy requiring seats in the top two divisions of English football.

Mark Miles, West Brom's director of operations, has urged the Sports Grounds Safety Authority to review the decision, calling it "surprising and disappointing."

He said the proposal has the support of club members and remains convinced that introducing rail seats, which can be locked in an upright position, would be safer in a section where persistent standing has been a problem.

"I think the Minister has taken a short-sighted view and is preventing the club from creating a safer environment for supporters," Miles said in a statement. "The all-seater policy was developed over 25 years ago and football is a very different place now.

"The system we proposed is well-tested across Europe and has also worked successfully at Celtic, who are governed by different legislation than in England and Wales. We were prepared to run a pilot which would enable the club to gather data and feedback to further inform us in the issue of crowd safety."

The safe standing area at Celtic Park
Celtic installed nearly 3,000 rail seats at Celtic Park last season with permission of the city government.

Celtic, following the example of German clubs such as Hoffenheim, installed nearly 3,000 rail seats last year in the Lisbon Lions Stand at Celtic Park after being granted a licence by Glasgow City Council.

The policy requiring seats in the top two leagues' grounds was written into law in 1994 after the Taylor Report, an inquiry into the causes of the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989, recommended the abolition of standing in the name of safety.

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport told the BBC that there are no plans to modify the all-seater policy.

"Alongside the Sports Ground Safety Authority, we will continue to monitor the issue of spectator accommodation and the use of safe standing where it is permitted," the spokesperson said.

West Brom, who made the original proposal in June, have introduced a number of initiatives to resolve the problem of standing at The Hawthorns and believed that the installation of rail seats in the affected areas would have minimised those concerns.

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