Newcastle United has become the latest English Premier League football club to commit to the concept of safe standing, initially for away fans at St. James’ Park.
Newcastle has outlined its long-term commitment to safe standing and will install a rail seating provision in the visitors’ section of St. James’ Park this summer following guidance from the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA).
To avoid major disruption to season ticket holders, the club said it will look to introduce a similar provision in a home area of its 52,305-seat stadium as early as 2023, subject to a consultation process.
Newcastle said the SGSA has advised that the front section of the away end at St. James’ Park – located in the upper section of the Leazes End – would benefit from having the added infrastructure in place as a priority.
Dave Gregory, head of safety and security at Newcastle United, said in a statement: “I’d like to emphasise that supporters will still not be permitted to stand at this time, but the addition of rail seating will add an enhanced safety provision in an elevated part of the stadium.
“We are committed to making St. James’ Park as safe as possible for everyone, and we look forward to working with our supporters to identify an area for fans who may wish to stand in future.”
Newcastle’s announcement comes with football clubs in the Premier League and Championship permitted to introduce safe-standing areas from next season after UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston last week 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 SGSA. Other clubs wishing to introduce licensed safe-standing areas will be allowed to do so from the start of the forthcoming season.
Commenting further on Newcastle’s plans, Gregory told local newspaper The Chronicle: “We can apply for the license but we need to consider how that is best placed in our home section.
“The matter is not straightforward and requires consultation with the fan base. Where is the best place to put it? Should it be in the Leazes Stand, the East Stand or the Gallowgate? Everybody will have an opinion on that.”
He continued: “We’ll look at that consultation, and that consultation will just have to take the time it takes, whether that is this season or it may creep into next season, I don’t know. We will have to see how easily we can get round it to try and keep fans happy and improve the fan experience for those that want to stand but also those who don’t want to stand.
“It should be win-win if we can get the moves done but it’s a big administrative task and obviously not everyone is comfortable moving to other parts of the stadium. If you’ve been coming a long time, you know those people sitting around you and you know your friends and family in that group as well.
“That matchday routine people have, they don’t like to break and we know that. That is why the consultation is paramount before we get to installation.”