The UK government is reportedly set to lift a ban on standing at stadiums in the top two divisions of English football.
The BBC has reported that a “handful” of grounds will be operating safe-standing areas before the end of the current season, with an official government announcement expected in September.
Standing at Premier League and Championship stadiums has been outlawed in England and Wales since 1994, when grounds were required to become all-seater. It came in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which led to the death of 97 Liverpool fans.
In recent years, there have been increasing calls for safe standing to be introduced in the Premier League and Championship, with a number of clubs recently fitting rail seating areas at their stadiums in readiness for any change in the law.
Earlier this month, Liverpool announced that the first rail seats had been installed at Anfield’s Kop end as part of the club’s season-long trial of the new seating option. The club announced in June that it would be introducing rail seating but maintained that the move should not be interpreted as creating ‘safe standing’ areas.
Chelsea has also fitted rail seating at Stamford Bridge, while Manchester United has done so at Old Trafford (pictured) and Manchester City has similar plans for the Etihad Stadium.
Malcolm Clarke, chairman of the Football Supporters Association (FSA), told the BBC that lifting the ban on standing would benefit all fans, adding: “People who want to stand should be able to do so in safety. Those who want to sit should be able to do so without having their view blocked.”
The ban on standing only applies to England and Wales, with Scottish Premiership club Celtic having operated a 3,000-capacity safe-standing section at Celtic Park since 2016. Safe standing is also in place at a number of German Bundesliga clubs.
The Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) will reportedly be instructed by the government which clubs to choose as “early adopters” for the trial in England and Wales. A spokesperson for the SGSA told the BBC that it is planning the “next steps” for implementing a 2019 commitment from the government to work on the introduction of safe standing.
Clubs in the Premier League and Championship are set to be invited to register an interest in taking part in a safe-standing trial in the coming months.
Image: Manchester United