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In football, Oxford United are continuing to investigate the possibility of introducing the Ox-Rails: Supporting Safer Spectators concept at the Kassam Stadium, the League One club’s home (pictured).
This would see the installation of a safety rail, independent of the seats, in sections of the East [Home] and North [Away] stands. The sections would remain as seated areas but, the club says, this extra safety control measure would prevent the risk of a progressive crowd collapse by supporters who have chosen to persistently stand (a long-standing and common problem at all-seater football grounds in England, especially among away fans).
In February 2018 the overwhelming majority of the Oxford United Safety Advisory Group members, including representatives of the fire and ambulance services, supported the Ox-Rails concept. The club were informed, again in February, that the stadium would receive a licence under the Football Spectators Act 1989 with the Ox-Rails: Supporting Safer Spectators concept installed. The stadium would remain a seated venue.
Ian Mixter, Head of Crowd Safety at Oxford United, has worked on the project since October 2017. He said: “It is great to be able to update our supporters with information regarding the concept; one which grew out of a request for me to look at the feasibility of a dedicated area for the Ultras. Although a time frame cannot be placed on completion of the project the next stage will see the installation of a test build of an Ox-Rail, in front of a single row of seats in the East Stand, to allow the safety barrier to undergo rigorous testing.
“Analysis of the results will allow for the design, if required, to be amended. The safety of spectators, both home and away, is paramount and the club is committed to ensuring that this groundbreaking concept complies with the safety standards required by the regulating authorities. Running concurrent will be continued consultation with our supporters, including OXVOX and season ticket holders, to ensure that when installed the Ox-Rails: Supporting Safer Spectators concept matches their expectations of a safe and supportive environment in which to view matches.
“Oxford United are continuing discussions with the Sports Ground Safety Authority to allow the concept to continue within the Stadium should the club be promoted to the Championship.”
Niall McWilliams, Oxford United’s Managing Director said: “First of all we would like to thank Ian for his hard work on this project. He has been very much the driving force in this project and has done a fantastic job in getting it this far. We would love to see Ox-Rails at the stadium and will continue to work with all relevant parties to try and make this happen.”
All-seater stadiums were made a requirement after the Taylor Report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster when 96 fans were crushed to death at the Sheffield Wednesday ground at an FA Cup semi-final. Celtic FC in Scotland since July 2016 has had rail seating in its otherwise all-seater ground, Celtic Park in Glasgow.
Shrewsbury Town meanwhile in May was installing rail seating, made by local company Ferco Seating. Town CEO Brian Caldwell said: “We were trending on Twitter yesterday and we have been trending before with safe standing, so it’s good for the town as well that we are putting Shrewsbury on the map.”