Liverpool fans must debate safe standing says Spirit of Shankly fans' group

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Celtic's safe standing: how does it work?

A leading Liverpool fans' group has warned members they need to discuss the issue of safe standing or risk "the conversation happening around them".

Spirit of Shankly (SOS) will vote on the issue on Saturday.

Its chair, Jay McKenna, said the impact of the Hillsborough disaster might have left fans "behind the curve" in the debate about reintroducing standing.

The club said it would "listen" to fans' views if legislation requiring all-seater stadiums were ever changed.

Liverpool said their fans were in a "uniquely complex and difficult position" when contemplating safe standing because the requirement for all-seater stadiums in England's top flight came in response to the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 fans were killed in a crush at an FA Cup semi-final in 1989.

'Are you in favour or not?'

SOS has discussed the issue with members since September and on Tuesday will meet with survivors of the disaster and families of those killed.

It will hold an open meeting in the city this weekend, then open an online vote. The vote will seek to clarify an official stance on safe standing for the group's members but a separate vote will also collate the views of non-members in order to build a supporter-wide consensus.

"We think it's important that everybody has a say," added McKenna.

"It can be a factual and emotional debate. We are fully aware of that. In the past nobody has wanted to talk about it, perhaps for fear of upsetting people. If we don't have this conversation, it will happen around us.

"We just want to know, are you in favour of it or not?"

'We call it unsafe standing'

Margaret Aspinall (right) says families she helps support are against safe standing
Margaret Aspinall (right) says families she helps support are against safe standing

Government legislation would need to change for safe standing to be introduced.

The Premier League wrote to its 20 clubs last month to assess whether they would be interested in trialling safe standing.

Debate over the issue has grown since Celtic introduced around 3,000 rail seats at Celtic Park at the beginning of last season. The Scottish club will be represented at Saturday's open SOS meeting, as will the Sports Ground Safety Authority, who oversaw regulation surrounding the move to all-seater stadiums.

But Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, which helps families of more than 70 of those killed at Hillsborough, reiterated the body's objection to safe standing.

"We have had a vote not so long ago with the families and they voted against any form of standing whatsoever," she said. "We don't call it safe standing we call it unsafe standing."

A separate organisation - the Hillsborough Justice Campaign - said it remained "neutral" on any move to safe standing but chair Kenny Derbyshire said it was now "imperative" people had their say.

In April 2016, inquests concluded the 96 people who died as a result of Hillsborough were unlawfully killed. In June, it was announced six senior figures will face charges for the disaster.

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