Five Clubs to officially trial safe standing

09 Nov 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

Five football clubs will take part in a safe standing trial from 1 January 2022, the sports minister Nigel Huddleston has confirmed.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea in the Premier League, and Cardiff City in the Championship, are the clubs whose applications to operate licensed safe standing areas have been approved.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said the club were delighted after having been approved as an early adopter of the standing areas.

"We are extremely proud of our 'safe seating' design, which ensures both comfort and safety, whether standing or seated, while maintaining the same aesthetics as in all other areas of the stadium," said Levy.

Standing in English football's top two divisions was outlawed following recommendations made in the Taylor Report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, where 97 Liverpool fans lost their lives.

Although in recent seasons, organisations such as the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) have called for standing to be reintroduced. Barrier or rail seating has been developed to provide seats that can be converted to standing areas when desired.

The trial marks the end of a blanket ban on standing in the top two tiers of English football, which has been in place for more than 25 years.

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

“Safety is absolutely paramount and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (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.”

It is understood Liverpool did not apply to take part in the pilot, because they are already running their own trial with two areas of rail seating at Anfield.

The Reds’ current trial is only designed to allow safe standing at particular moments of excitement in a game, rather than throughout. The club will then review their trial at the end of the season.

However, the UK's football policing lead, Chief Constable Mark Roberts of Cheshire Police, has criticised what he sees as a 'headlong rush' to reintroduce standing areas.

He said “My concern is that you get over-migration into the area because it is attractive to some supporters, and it is easier when they are stood up.

“You are potentially going to get issues of overcrowding. You will potentially get a more male-dominated crowd, fewer children and older people. That's going to drive more exclusionary behaviour in terms of the language and behaviour.”

The pilot programme will be monitored by the independent firm CFE Research, and its findings will be fed back to the government for it to make a decision on a possible wider roll-out of safe standing for the 2022/23 season.

Chelsea’s home game against Liverpool on 2 January 2022 is set to be the first Premier League match with safe standing areas as part of the trial.

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