Premier League and Championship clubs invited to trial safe standing

Manchester City have installed rail seating at Etihad Stadium which can be converted to standing areas
Manchester City have installed rail seating at Etihad Stadium which can be converted to standing areas

Premier League and Championship clubs have been asked for expressions of interest to pilot safe standing areas this season.

Clubs have until 6 October to submit an application to the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA).

"If approved, they will be able to offer licensed standing areas from 1 January 2022," said the SGSA.

Since 1994, first and second-tier grounds in England and Wales have been required to be all-seaters by law.

Standing in English football's top two divisions was outlawed following recommendations made in the Taylor Report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 97 Liverpool fans lost their lives.

In recent seasons, campaigners have called for standing to be allowed in grounds once again. Barrier seating has been developed to provide seats which can also be converted to standing areas.

In 2018, new guidance from the SGSA, the body in charge of ground safety, allowed the use of rail seats.

The Conservatives promised to work towards the introduction of safe standing areas in their 2019 general election manifesto and, if the initial trials prove successful, legislation could be introduced for all stadiums in England's top two divisions within the next few years.

The SGSA said the announcement of the pilot scheme "starts the legal process needed for clubs to offer licensed standing areas from 1 January".

"We have been clear that we will work with fans and clubs towards introducing safe standing at football grounds providing there was evidence that installing seating with barriers would have a positive impact on crowd safety," said UK sports minister Nigel Huddleston.

"With independent research now complete, and capacity crowds back at grounds across the country, now is the right time to make progress."

Premier League clubs Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham and Wolves have all had rail seating installed at their grounds.

Manchester United, Wolves, Manchester City and Tottenham are likely to apply for the safe standing scheme.

"We know many fans want the choice to stand and, with the advent of new engineering solutions, our research has shown how this can be managed safely," said SGSA chief executive Martyn Henderson.

"This announcement will enable us to properly test and evaluate licensed standing areas before the government decides its next steps."

The criteria for clubs

Clubs that want to take part in the scheme need to fulfil a number of criteria which the SGSA says includes:

  • Having seats with barriers/independent barriers - which must be in both home and away sections
  • Fans must be able to sit or stand in the licensed area
  • Seats cannot be locked in the 'up' or 'down' position and there must be one seat/space per person
  • The licensed standing areas must not impact the viewing standards of other fans, including disabled fans
  • There must be a code of conduct in place for fans in the licensed standing area

The Football Supporters' Association (FSA) welcomed a move which it said ends "an FSA-led safe standing campaign that has lasted more than three decades".

It added: "There is a tradition of fans standing at games as it increases choice, improves atmospheres and ensures supporter safety when hosted in properly managed and licensed standing areas."

Pete Daykin, the co-ordinator of the FSA's safe standing campaign said: "It brings to an end a farcical situation in which fans at every ground continue to stand in their thousands - often to the detriment of those who can't or don't want to stand behind them - but that clubs can't officially recognise or tackle in a constructive, proactive way."

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