Last year, Shrewsbury Town unveiled plans to install a new licensed standing area at Montgomery Waters Meadow in a unique move that could have wider implications for all 72 EFL clubs.
With the help of a crowdfunding campaign, where more than 1,000 fans donated money to achieve the required £65,000 target, Shrewsbury have recently become the first English club to introduce rail seating to their stadium, with the facility opening ahead of the 2018/19 season.
However, the fact that the same choice to introduce a licensed standing area is not open to all 72 EFL clubs is why the EFL’s ‘Stand up for Choice’ campaign is targeting a change in the restrictions imposed on those clubs who would like to look at a similar project.
The position is something Shrewsbury Chief Executive, Brian Caldwell, is certainly in favour of and has experienced firsthand.
“This is a supporter led initiative – the Parliament of Shrewsbury Town came to me a year ago asking if it was something I would buy into. I had seen the success Celtic had with it and how it improved Celtic Park in Glasgow,” Caldwell explained.
“I could really see the benefits of providing that to supporters of Shrewsbury Town given that there is still that choice whether they want to stand or they want to sit.”
Work was completed last month in what was a milestone for not only Shrewsbury, but also for EFL clubs, 12 months on from the initial discussions taking place. Since then, the EFL has undertaken a survey of football supporters, which revealed that 94 per cent of fans would like to have the option of whether to sit or stand on a matchday.
This choice is restricted by current legislation, whereby League One and League Two clubs are allowed standing areas in their stadiums whereas others are not with clubs in the Championship required to only offer seated accommodation after three years in the division.
In Caldwell’s opinion, the introduction of a standing area to Montgomery Waters Meadow not only satisfies the demand of Shrewsbury fans, but could also prove the value to other clubs up and down the country.
“There is a real swell of opinion from fans that they want to be able to stand, or at least have that choice to be able to decide for themselves.
“I look at it long term; I think it will improve the atmosphere, and if you look back at the first games we all attended you sometimes remember the atmosphere over the actual game itself. Hopefully from that point of view it will bring a better atmosphere; it is better to sing standing up than sitting down.
“We are trying to attract new supporters, of all ages, and hopefully this standing section will do just that.”
Caldwell added: “I think Shrewsbury Town are the pilot. My belief is that once we can prove how successful this area can be, and how many people want to stand, it can follow on.
“As I said, this is a supporter-funded campaign and led by fans of this football club. There are strong opinions in favour of standing at fixtures in the EFL.”