TALKS have been held over the possibility of re-introducing standing areas at Middlesbrough FC after a fans poll showed 94 per cent were in favour.

But the club is remaining 'neutral' on the possibility of installing areas of safe standing, like those seen in many stadiums of Germany's Bundesliga.

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Simon Clarke has thrown his weight behind the campaign to introduce safe standing areas in football grounds, which will be debated in Parliament later this month. Other MPs in Teesside are also understood to be in favour of the move.

And on Friday he visited the Riverside stadium to meet with Mark Ellis, chief operating officer of Middlesbrough FC, Chris Joseph and Dave Roberts from the Middlesbrough Supporters Forum and Rob Nichols from the Fly Me to the Moon fanzine to discuss the issue.

He said afterwards the talks had been 'productive' and added: "I have given my support to the campaign to introduce safe standing areas in football grounds.

"This is a complex debate given the history and the important operational considerations that surround issues like sight lines in stadiums like The Riverside Stadium, which is designed to be all-seater. However, I believe there is a case in principle for allowing clubs that wish to adopt safe standing to do so, under appropriate supervision.

"Were safe standing to be permitted, whether to take it up must be a decision for individual clubs and their respective local councils, who are the licensing authorities. Boro themselves remain neutral on this issue - quite rightly Steve Gibson's focus is on investing every penny he can in the team.

"The Government is still considering the options. There will be a Parliamentary debate later this month in which I will speak about this."

Mr Joseph said a fans' poll by the supporters' group had shown them to be overwhelmingly in favour of safe standing areas – which are much different to the open terraces seen in the days before Hillsborough. But he said the areas currently had to be approved by sport secretary Tracey Crouch.

Not only do many fans feel the atmosphere would be better, but he said it was actually safer than fans standing in front of their seats, which he said he felt could be problematic if there was a surge forward. Many fans stand up in front of their seats through games, particularly at away fixtures.

The rails installed in German stadiums – and in one or two British ones now – are designed to convert to seating if needed but are higher, at near shoulder-height, and would prevent any crowd surges.