UEFA has today (Wednesday) announced the launch of a programme to observe the use of standing facilities for general admission spectators attending matches in its men’s club competitions during the upcoming 2022-23 season.
European football’s governing body said that while its regulations only permit seated places to be used for its competitions, except for those events where Category 1 stadiums may be used, an “increasing trend” towards the use of standing facilities in some domestic competitions has been observed in recent years.
UEFA said football supporters across Europe, as well as clubs who regularly use standing facilities at domestic level, have expressed increasing interest for UEFA to consider standing facilities at European matches.
In December, UEFA commissioned Milan-based university, Politecnico di Milano, to conduct an independent study to examine the prevalence, domestic regulatory framework, technologies and safety management of existing standing facilities within professional football in Europe.
UEFA said the study noted the “widely different approaches” in the application and regulatory framework across countries and sometimes also between regions and cities in the same country. It added that a variety of different technical solutions are also used with significantly different impacts on safety and security management.
UEFA said: “With the approval of the UEFA Executive Committee, UEFA is launching the Standing Facilities Observer Programme 2022-23 to observe the use of such facilities in domestic as well as international club competition matches. The objective is to assess if and under what conditions standing may be reintroduced in UEFA competitions in a safe manner.”
Given its observatory nature, the programme will be limited, at least in its introductory season, to clubs from the top five associations in the UEFA rankings where standing is already authorised and implemented at domestic level, i.e. England, Germany and France, in compliance with national and local legislation.
The programme will be carried out during the group stage and knockout phases up to and including the semi-finals of the 2022-23 UEFA men’s club competitions. The finals are excluded.
UEFA said it will appoint independent experts to analyse the use of standing facilities at both domestic and international club matches in the three countries to “assess the different dynamics” between national and international supporters and the related safety and security implications.
At the end of the 2022-23 season, on the basis of the reports submitted by the mandated experts, the UEFA administration will assess the findings of the programme and submit the results to the Executive Committee, which will decide on any continuation and possible extension of the programme.
In the English football system, clubs in the Premier League and Championship will be permitted to introduce safe-standing areas from the coming season after UK Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston approved a wider roll-out earlier this month.
Five clubs – Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Cardiff City – had been chosen to trial licensed safe-standing areas at their stadia from January 1, and from the 2022-23 season all other teams across the top two divisions of English football will be able to follow suit.
Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham will all be competing in UEFA competitions during the coming campaign.