Wolves have installed three different safe-standing options at Molineux, making them the first Premier League club to do so at an operational stadium.
The mix of rail seats and seats with separate barriers has been installed in a currently unused block of the Billy Wright Stand to show fans and the local Safety Advisory Group how they would work when the law banning persistent standing is dropped.
Wolves are also putting in two further options – barriers in front of existing seats – later this week in order to demonstrate five solutions in total, the Black Country club have announced.
In a statement released to Press Association Sport, managing director Laurie Dalrymple said: “As a club we are keen to be at the forefront of innovation and progression, so the opportunity to install these examples of potential safe-standing solutions was one we were very happy to explore.
“Whilst the seats themselves will not be operational or used at matches, we are now able to give our Fan’s Parliament group and local authority the opportunity to view all the options before some of these solutions become commonplace in UK stadiums.
“We are now actively working on plans regarding the development and expansion of Molineux in line with the club’s ambitions on and off the pitch, and we see this as another example of how we plan to meet supporters’ expectations and desires as we deliver a stadium that meets all of our requirements.”
Grounds in England’s two top divisions have had to be all-seater ever since the 1989 Hillsborough disaster but the government is reviewing that legislation, with most safety experts expecting it to be relaxed in the coming months.
That would bring the Premier League and Championship in line with Leagues One and Two, as well as grounds in Scotland, where Celtic became the first British club to introduce Bundesliga-style rail seats in 2016.
Wolves’ midlands neighbours West Brom asked for permission to pilot a safe-standing section, with rail seats, at the Hawthorns last season, but their request was rejected by the then sports minister Tracey Crouch.
She told the club she remained unconvinced that standing sections could ever be as safe as seated areas and later told the Press Association that only “a vocal minority” were interested in scrapping the all-seater rule.
Within weeks, however, an online petition forced Crouch to grant a parliamentary debate on the matter and, with growing support for change from the clubs, the government eventually agreed to a review.
Judging the direction of travel, Tottenham have installed 7,500 seats with a safety barrier in front of them at their rebuilt White Hart Lane home. These seats can be flipped up and perhaps even locked in place to create a standing area.
The Sports Ground Safety Authority has confirmed that Spurs’ “safe-seating” idea is compliant with the government’s current all-seater policy, providing strict conditions on maintenance and stewarding are kept.
Everton have also said their proposed new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock has been designed with the flexibility to have large standing areas, while Manchester City are among the clubs currently considering where standing sections could be introduced to their grounds.
But with Spurs unlikely to move into their state-of-the-art home until March at the earliest, Wolves are the first big English club to actually fit safe-standing solutions in their current home.
Safe-standing campaigner Jon Darch told Press Association Sport: “We anticipate that Safety Advisory Groups will be looking closely at clubs with areas of persistent standing and will most likely encourage them to enhance spectator safety in those areas by installing rail seats like those now on show at Molineux.
“I also anticipate that legislation will change to allow clubs to operate areas, fitted with such seating, as formal standing areas. That could potentially happen this year.”