The UK government has begun talks with the Premier League and English Football League over the possibility of introducing safe standing at football stadia across the country.
The issue will be debated in parliament on June 25 after more than 100,000 football fans signed a petition calling for Premier League and Championship clubs to introduce safe standing.
Safe standing has been outlawed in the top two divisions of English football since the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which claimed the lives of 96 football fans.
Tracey Crouch, the UK’s Sports Minister, said in April that there were no current plans to change the all-seater policy at football stadia after West Bromwich Albion saw a bid to trial a rail-seating scheme rejected by the government.
The subsequent petition means the subject will be discussed in parliament and the BBC reported yesterday (Monday) that Crouch is keen to discuss “safety at stadiums, and the impact of improved technologies and stadium design”. The BBC said that government officials have spoken to the Premier League and EFL to review the current all-seater policy.
A government source told the BBC: “Safety of supporters is paramount. However we recognise that technology and stadium design has evolved since the all-seater policy was introduced and the time is right to look at the issue.
“The sports minister has not shut the door to fans keen on standing sections being introduced but it is important that all the evidence and viewpoints are considered extremely carefully.”
West Brom had hoped to run a pilot scheme in the Smethwick End of its Hawthorns stadium for both home and away fans. The club submitted a formal application last year and had hoped to install such a section this summer, only to see its proposal rejected.
Third-tier League One team Shrewsbury Town recently installed a safe standing section at its New Meadow stadium, while Scottish Premiership club Celtic has a similar zone at Celtic Park. The all-seater restrictions do not apply to clubs outside of England’s top two divisions.
Image: Jon Darch