BREAKING NEWS: Select Premier League and Championship football clubs will be allowed to have safe-standing areas from January for the first time since standing was banned in 1994
- Premier League and Championship clubs have been invited to trial safe standing
- Persistent standing in stadia has been banned in English football since 1994
- Safe standing was outlawed after a report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster
- The trial will begin on January 1 and clubs can apply to take part from October 6
- Man City, Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs already have rail seating
Selected Premier League and Championship clubs have been invited to pilot safe standing areas in their grounds from January 1 as part of a trial.
Safe standing has not been allowed in the top two divisions in English football since 1994, in the wake of the Taylor Report that followed the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
The 1990 report by Lord Justice Taylor claimed that standing accommodation was not completely unsafe, but Margaret Thatcher’s Government decided that no standing areas should be allowed. A law was passed four years after the report was published when John Major was Prime Minister.
Now, the Sports Ground Safety Authority group (SGSA) has invited clubs to submit an application by October 6 to become part of the trial that will approve licensed standing areas from New Year’s Day until the end of the season, subject to approval.
Premier League sides Manchester United, Man City, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool have already constructed areas in their stadia that can accommodate safe standing trials in the easiest and safest manner.
Premier League and Championship clubs will pilot safe standing this season as part of a trial
Manchester United are one of the clubs to install rail seating ahead of any potential law change
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said: ‘We have been clear that we will work with fans and clubs towards introducing safe standing at football grounds providing there was evidence that installing seating with barriers would have a positive impact on crowd safety.
‘With independent research now complete, and capacity crowds back at grounds across the country, now is the right time to make progress. I look forward to hearing from clubs who wish to be part of our early adopters programme during the second half of this season.’
Clubs must meet a range of criteria in order to gain approval, which include having the necessary infrastructure in both home and away areas of their stadium and allowing fans to sit or stand in the standing areas with the rail seats not locked in the ‘up’ or ‘down’ position.
Manchester City are another top-flight side who installed rail seating for the current season
The grounds must also ensure the areas do not impact on the view for other fans including those with disabilities and must provide a code of conduct for standing fans and consulting with the relevant Safety Advisory Group.
SGSA chief executive Martyn Henderson said: ‘The focus of the SGSA is the safety and enjoyment of all fans at sports grounds.
‘We know many fans want the choice to stand and, with the advent of new engineering solutions, our research has shown how this can be managed safely.
Scottish side Celtic already have rail seating at Parkhead along with German Bundesliga clubs
WHAT ARE RAIL SEATS?
Rail seats are essentially seats with built-in safety barriers to allow safe standing.
Each metal seat is incorporated within a robust metal frame that forms a waist-high rail for the spectators in the row behind. These seat frames are installed on a permanent basis with the same spacing as standard seats. The frames interlock to form a continuous high-strength rail along the full length of each row.
Should safe standing be formally allowed next year, the seats will be locked to allow for standing fans between rows of the waist-high rails.
They are widely used across Europe with almost half of clubs in the Bundesliga using rail seats, including Borussia Dortmund.
In July 2016, Celtic formally unveiled their new 2,600 capacity rail seating area within Celtic Park, becoming the first British club to do so.
‘Today’s announcement will enable us to properly test and evaluate licensed standing areas before the Government decides its next steps.’
The SGSA has reviewed how Scottish Premier League giants Celtic and the whole German Bundesliga division have been administering their safe standing areas since they were allowed to permit them.
The Football Association, along with the Premier League and EFL groups, have approved the return of safe standing should their clubs’ local authorities allow these areas to return.
Certain Premier League clubs have been preparing for the return of safe standing areas, after the Conservative Government promised in their 2019 election manifesto that work would be done to reintegrate the phenomenon back into football society.
Wolves became the first Premier League side to install rail seating at the start of 2019. The mix of rail seats and seats with separate barriers has been installed in a currently unused block of the Billy Wright Stand to show fans and the local Safety Advisory Group how they would work should the law banning persistent standing be dropped.
In the same year, Tottenham opened their new £1billion White Hart Lane stadium with a large area supported by rail seats.
The two Manchester clubs in England’s top-flight have constructed safe standing areas for the new season that kicked off in August. City installed 5,600 rail seats this year while United now have 1,500 barrier seats at Old Trafford.
Tottenham built their entire £1billion stadium with a large rail seating section for safe standing
Chelsea also installed a safe standing section at their Stamford Bridge ground in west London
Liverpool also began installing 7,800 rail seats in their Kop and Anfield Road ends at the beginning of August for the new campaign.
Chelsea also installed rail seats at their Stamford Bridge stadium for the new season as they prepare for the expected safe standing trials.
Wembley Stadium and Cardiff’s Principality Stadium will also be allowed safe standing areas should the trial be successful.