Shaun Harvey, chief executive of the English Football League (EFL) has said that safe standing could be introduced in the country’s top two leagues by the 2020-21 season.

Safe standing has been outlawed in the top two tiers since the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, which claimed the lives of 96 football fans.

However, parliament will this month stage an official debate on the matter after 100,000 fans signed a petition calling for Premier League and Championship clubs to introduce safe standing.

Ahead of the debate on June 25, the government has also opened talks with the Premier League and EFL on the issue.

Harvey, whose EFL organisation governs the Championship, as well as the third-tier League 1 and fourth-tier League 2 competitions, said a vote on whether the existing legislation should be changed could take place within 12 months.

“It is realistic to think we could have standing in the top two leagues by the 2020-21 season,” Harvey said, according to the BBC.

Harvey also said that “single numbers” of clubs would be keen to introduce safe standing straight away should current laws be changed, but many teams had not yet considered it.

The EFL is keen to place a capacity cap of 7,500 on safe standing areas, but the organisation would allow clubs to have more than one of these sections if the local safety officer granted them approval.

“We don’t want the debate to be lost around a return to 20,000 capacity terraces and this figure would allow disorder issues to be resolved,” Harvey said.

“This is not a safety issue as 22 stadiums in the EFL already have standing. And it is not about promoting rail seating over terracing as that is a choice which has to be made at local level.

“It is about standing shoulder to shoulder with government to deliver what the fans want. I will be disappointed if by this time next year there has not been significant movement on this issue.”

Image: Jon Darch