UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston has said he is “minded to” permit all clubs across the top two tiers of English football to introduce licensed standing areas to their stadia from next season.

In November, Premier League clubs Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, as well as Championship team Cardiff City, were chosen to trial licensed safe-standing areas at their stadia from January 1.

The five clubs have been the first in the top two tiers of English football to allow standing in nearly 30 years. Over the remaining part of the 2021-22 season, studies have been carried out at the grounds by CFE Research to evaluate the implementation of licensed standing areas at early-adopter grounds.

This research is to be provided to the Government, which is due to make a decision on the potential wider roll-out of safe standing from the start of the 2022-23 season.

Huddleston said yesterday (Tuesday), according to the BBC: “Alongside the SGSA (Sports Grounds Safety Authority), we have carefully considered the findings of the interim report, and with this robust evidence in hand, I am ‘minded to’ change the existing all-seater policy to allow all clubs currently subject to this requirement to introduce licensed standing areas for the start of the 2022-23 season, provided they have met certain strict criteria.”

The SGSA last month issued an interim findings summary of CFE Research’s studies, outlining that installing barriers or rails in areas of persistent standing in seated accommodation “continues to have a positive impact” on spectator safety. The SGSA stated that a “number of positive impacts” of installing barriers or rails have been identified.

However, English football has since been hit by a spate of incidents of pitch invasions by fans, raising concerns over issues of crowd management and stadium security. Huddleston stated a final decision on safe standing is subject to the CFE Research Final Evaluation Report confirming the findings of the interim report.

He added: “The Government’s approach has been driven by safety considerations throughout and this will continue to be our priority. We are not complacent about spectator safety, nor are we complacent about the safety policies that have served spectators well for many years.”

Standing has not been permitted in the top two leagues of English football since a law was introduced in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, which led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans.

Image: Jonny Gios on Unsplash