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Lively meeting held at Norwich’s Carrow Road ground to discuss issue of safe standing

PUBLISHED: 10:03 20 March 2014 | UPDATED: 11:42 20 March 2014

David Wiltshire speaking in the Safe Standing debate at the Norwich City supporters' meeting. Photo: Bill Smith

David Wiltshire speaking in the Safe Standing debate at the Norwich City supporters' meeting. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

More than 40 Norwich City fans attended an open meeting yesterday to discuss the issue of safe standing at Carrow Road.

A recent survey of Canary supporters has shown an overwhelming majority believe the atmosphere at games would be improved if safe standing areas were built.

The issue of safe standing has been the subject of emotive debate since the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

And that was the issue under discussion at the ground as members of the Norwich City Supporters Trust held a meeting on the subject.

Representatives from the Barclay End Projekt, who conducted a survey of more than 800 people finding that a total of 88pc felt safe standing should be introduced at Carrow Road, were among those at the meeting.

David Wiltshire, from the Projekt, said safe standing in grounds was “affecting so many supporters at every club”.

He said: “It’s not something that’s a return to the past but something that’s never been seen in this country in a stadium before which is being used on the continent by thousands of supporters and which has brought great benefits to them.”

Mr Wiltshire said it was not a political issue but should be “for the club and supporters to make their own decision if it’s what they want to see.”

Daily Express sports writer Mick Dennis, who is president of the Norwich City Supporters Trust, hosted the meeting and said he was “ambivalent” but also interested in the issue.

Jon Darch, from the Safe Standing Roadshow, is an advocate of so-called Rail Seats - robust metal seats with a high back forming a sturdy rail for safe standing.

He said the name of the game was to “educate and inform” people about what he accepted was “totally new territory” but just asked that “clubs look at it” and perhaps trial it.

Joe Ferrari, a spokesman for the club, said he and stadium operations manager Chris Bailey were there to hear what the fans had to say.

But Mr Ferrari said there would be challenges for the club in terms of safe standing at Carrow Road.

He said it would cost money to remodel or reconfigure stands which could potentially involve the removal of all existing seats or relocation of concrete steps.

Mr Ferrari also said a potential increase in capacity if safe standing was introduced would also have implications in terms of policing, safety, medical cover and catering.

But Mr Ferrari said he would report back views from the meeting to “the powers that be”.

The lively meeting heard that the next generation of fans under 17 might not want to go to games if there was not the capacity to stand, while another fan who was opposed to standing said his eight-year-old son could not see because people stood in front of him.

By law, top-flight clubs are required to have all-seater stadiums, but a national campaign to amend government legislation is gathering pace.

As previously reported the survey of City fans revealed 88pc said safe standing should be introduced at Carrow Road, and 87pc said it would improve the atmosphere.

Now the survey’s organisers hope to begin a conversation with club bosses about supporting the national campaign to change the law, which could allow German-style rail seating in the lower section of the Barclay stand.

The seating is already in use at many German clubs – including at Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion, which has a capacity of more than 80,000.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Wiltshire said it was “positive” the club had hosted the meeting on “such an emotive issue” and hoped what was discussed would be taken away so that things could move forward to a situation where there would be accommodation in the stadium to give every single supporter the chance to watch the game as they wished.

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