Football clubs in the Premier League and Championship will be permitted to introduce safe-standing areas from next season after UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston approved a wider roll-out.
Five clubs – Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Cardiff City – were chosen to trial licensed safe-standing areas at their stadia from January 1, and from next season all other teams across the top two divisions of English football will be able to follow suit.
Premier League clubs Wolverhampton Wanderers and Brentford, along with Championship outfit Queens Park Rangers, will be the next teams to formally introduce safe-standing areas, while Wembley Stadium is also set to trial the initiative later in the 2022-23 season.
The stadiums have been selected following an application process, open to all grounds covered by the all-seater policy, led by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA). Strict conditions have been met, including enhanced use of CCTV, improved steward training and fans being strictly limited to one person per space.
Other clubs wishing to introduce licensed safe-standing areas will be allowed to do so from the start of the forthcoming season.
In May, Huddleston said he was “minded to” permit all clubs across the Premier League and Championship to introduce licensed standing areas from next season. After the initial five clubs were permitted to introduce standing, studies were carried out by CFE Research during the remainder of the 2021-22 season to evaluate the implementation of a wider roll-out.
The research was provided to the Government, which has now decided to approve the wider roll-out ahead of the start of the 2022-23 season. A final report on last season’s trial concluded that the installation of barriers or rails in areas of persistent standing in seated areas delivered a positive impact on spectator safety and improved fans’ match-day experience.
Huddleston said: “Based upon what I have experienced and we have learnt through the pilot programme, safe standing is set to deliver an electric atmosphere at our football stadiums.
“Fans have long campaigned for its introduction and we have worked carefully with supporters groups, including the families affected by the tragic Hillsborough football disaster. I am proud of the work that has gone into this rigorous process and that we have delivered on our manifesto commitment to get fans back on their feet in stadiums.”
SGSA chief executive Martyn Henderson added: “We welcome the controlled return of standing for the modern era, which has been made possible by a very close collaboration with the Government.
“This is an historic moment for football – and, most importantly, for the fans who have campaigned for this change and will be safer as a result of today’s decision.”
The Guardian reports that Wembley’s safe-standing zone will initially cover two areas of 1,000 seats each, behind both goals. The area will initially be used for club matches, starting with the Carabao Cup final in February, and will not be available during England matches.
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.