Liverpool fans have backed the introduction of safe standing at English football grounds by a huge majority in a poll conducted by a major supporters’ club.

Almost 18,000 fans took part in a vote organised by Spirit Of Shankly, with 88 per cent in favour of the creation of rail seating areas inside grounds.

The backing of Liverpool fans is particularly significant as 96 of the club’s fans were killed in the Hillsborough Tragedy of 1989 which led to the outlawing of standing at football matches in England.

The online vote among Spirit Of Shankly members followed a public meeting in the centre of Liverpool and consultation with many groups including other supporters, the Hillsborough Family Support Group (HFSG) and the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.

Among the huge number that took part in the Liverpool fans’ poll, 902 (5.04%) were against, 859 (4.8%) wanted to know more on the subject and 351 (1.96%) were undecided.

Jay McKenna, chair of Spirit Of Shankly, said: “It’s an incredible turnout. We aren’t aware of such numbers voting before. After nine months of discussion, we have now had the vote and it will be taken as the position for Spirit of Shankly.

“We’ve always been clear that this was about rail seating areas in football stadiums and not specifically at Anfield.

“Any such discussion is for a future point and requires more talking to those involved – supporters, the football club and importantly families and survivors. That will inevitably be asked but for now we want to take time to reflect on the vote and allow others to do the same.”

Jon Darch, of the Safe Standing Roadshow, which promotes the introduction of safe standing areas in English football, told The Ticketing Business: “It is clearly a very significant poll. However, five per cent of respondents still evidently have some reservations.

“Hopefully these can be allayed in further dialogue, so that ultimately we can move forward with all parties in agreement on the safest way to accommodate standing fans in Premier League and other top stadia.”

The government said earlier this year that it remains “unconvinced” by the case for safe standing in England, but Premier League clubs are known to support changes, particularly after the successful introduction of rail seating at Celtic last year.

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Earlier this year the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust surveyed 7,239 Arsenal supporters for their views on safe standing and 96 per cent were in favour of its introduction in English football grounds. Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur have both included provision for safe standing in their plans for stadium revamps.

Liverpool’s head of club and fan liaison Tony Barrett said then: “The tragic events of April 15, 1989 means we and our supporters are in a uniquely complex and difficult position as far as the current debate is concerned and we would appeal to all fans to continue to be respectful of the Hillsborough families and take their views into account during whatever deliberations take place.

“Unless and until there is a change in legislation, all debate will remain hypothetical but, as ever, we will listen to the views of our fans and look to offer the best possible match-going experience in whatever form that may take place.”

Image: Jon Darch