UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston has today (Monday) confirmed that Premier League football clubs Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, as well as Championship team Cardiff City, will introduce licensed safe-standing areas at their stadiums from January 1.

The five clubs will be the first in the top two tiers of English football to allow standing in nearly 30 years.

The announcement comes after it was reported last month that six clubs had applied for their stadiums to form part of the safe-standing trial, with Wolverhampton Wanderers reported to have withdrawn its application because of requirements relating to away fan seating.

In a statement released today, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) said the announcement builds on the success of the Government’s all-seater policy, which was brought in following the Lord Taylor report into the Hillsborough disaster, which led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans.

Fans have campaigned for safe standing to be reintroduced for a number of years, with independent research having been carried out to explore the possibility. The research has identified any potential safety risks related to persistent standing, as well as the positive impact engineering solutions, such as seats incorporating barriers or independent barriers, can have.

Clubs had been invited to take part in an early-adopter programme and the five teams that will take part have now been confirmed. The stadiums have been selected following an application process, open to all grounds covered by the all-seater policy, led by the SGSA.

Over the remaining part of the season, research will be carried out at the grounds by CFE Research to evaluate the implementation of licensed standing areas at early-adopter grounds. This research will then be provided to the Government, which will make an informed decision on the potential wider roll-out of safe standing from the start of the 2022-23 season.

A number of criteria had to be met for clubs to receive approval. These included the necessary infrastructure being in place in both home and away sections before January 1, and seats that cannot be locked in the ‘up’ or ‘down’ position to allow fans the option of being able to sit.

Other requirements included one seat/space per person, no impact on the viewing standards of other fans, a code of conduct being set up, briefing and training for staff and stewards, CCTV being in place for full coverage of the standing areas, and a consultation with the Safety Advisory Group.

The SGSA stressed that the areas do not represent a reintroduction of terraces in top-flight grounds, with other areas of the stadium to remain subject to the Government’s all-seater policy.

Huddleston said: “I’m pleased to approve these five clubs as early adopters of licensed safe standing areas for the second half of the season. The time is now right to properly trial safe standing in the Premier League and EFL Championship ahead of a decision on a widespread roll-out.

“Safety is absolutely paramount and the SGSA is working hand-in-glove with the clubs on this. Fans deserve different options on how they can enjoy a live match and I will be watching the progress of these trials with interest.”

Martyn Henderson, chief executive of the SGSA, added: “The focus of the SGSA is the safety of all fans at sports grounds. We know there is a safety risk arising from fans who persistently stand in seated areas, demonstrated in independent research.  

“We also know many fans want the choice to stand. The advent of new engineering solutions and the findings from our research has shown this can be managed safely. 

“Today’s announcement will enable us to properly test and evaluate licensed standing areas and advise the Government in its next steps. We are taking a careful, evidence-based approach to this historic change, again using independent researchers to evaluate any lessons to be learnt.”

Image: Manchester United