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Kilmarnock set to install fan-funded safe-standing section for young fans

© Ian Rutherford/PAKilmarnock fans celebrate qualifying for Europe and can now also look forward to ground improvements they have funded
Kilmarnock fans celebrate qualifying for Europe and can now also look forward to ground improvements they have funded

Kilmarnock are set to become the first British club to install a safe-standing section for under-16s and, in another UK first, the new rail seats will be entirely funded by their fans.

The seats, which can be flipped up and locked in place to create room to stand behind a waist-high safety rail, will be fitted at Rugby Park in mid-September.

Paid for by the supporters’ trust, there will be 158 rail seats for adults in the East Stand and 166 for youngsters in the Family Stand, making Killie the second Scottish team after Celtic to create a Bundesliga-style safe-standing area.

Speaking to Press Association Sport, Killie Trust chair Jim Thomson explained that the decision to install rail seats is part of a wider push to get more youngsters to attend games and improve the atmosphere on match days.

The rail seats will cost about £40,000 but the trust has also managed to raise enough money to build wheelchair platforms to give disabled fans a much better viewing experience at Rugby Park.

Set up in 2003, this is the trust’s second major investment in the club after raising £100,000 to buy shares to put a supporter-elected representative on the board last year.

With former Labour MP Cathy Jamieson in place, Thomson said the trust’s next priority was to build on the excitement of last season’s campaign, which saw the East Ayrshire side pip Aberdeen to third place in the Scottish Premiership and fill Rugby Park more regularly.

“We had more than 12,000 fans in for the last game of the season against Rangers and the atmosphere was incredible but our average gate is more like 8,000 – better than it was not long ago but still too many empty seats,” said Thomson.

“So we’re trying to develop the Family Stand, which we used to give over to Old Firm fans but have now reclaimed.

“We think putting rail seats in there so the older kids can stand with their mates, but still in sight of their parents, will be a really social thing for them. It will also hopefully encourage them to keep coming as they get older.”

Kilmarnock’s reward for finishing third – their best finish since 1966 – is a place in next season’s Europa League.

First, they must replace Scotland’s manager of the year Steve Clarke, who took the national team job a day after the season ended.