Five Clubs Set To Become First Licensed Standing Grounds
Cardiff City, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United FC and Tottenham Hotspur will be the first clubs to have licensed ‘safe-standing’ in seated areas from 1 January 2022, the Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston, has announced today.
The five clubs will be the first in the top two tiers of football in England and Wales to allow standing in nearly 30 years. They will pioneer a new approach, which offers fans the opportunity to stand in certain areas.
The change builds on the success of the Government’s all-seater policy, brought in following the Lord Taylor report into the Hillsborough disaster. For many years, fans have campaigned for standing to be reintroduced.
Independent research conducted recently has identified the safety risks related to persistent standing in seated areas. It has also evidenced the positive impact engineering solutions, such as seats incorporating barriers or independent barriers, can have.
Today’s historic announcement is a vital step towards fulfilling the Government’s manifesto commitment to introducing licensed safe-standing areas at all-seater football grounds. The grounds 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).
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston, said: “I’m pleased to approve these five clubs as early adopters of licensed safe standing areas for the second half of the season. The time is now right to properly trial safe standing in the Premier League and EFL Championship ahead of a decision on a widespread roll-out.
“Safety is absolutely paramount and the 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.”
Danny Wilson, Managing Director – Manchester City Operations, said: “We are delighted that Manchester City’s application to become an early adopter of licensed standing has been approved.
“Our fans have consistently voiced their support for the introduction of safe standing, and we are pleased that we will be able to fully utilise our rail seating installation from January through to the end of the season.
“As always, safety is our main priority, and we look forward to working closely with the Sports Grounds Safety Authority over the course of the trial to demonstrate the long-term viability of safe standing at the Etihad Stadium.”
Tottenham Hotspur, who installed railed seating as part of their new £1bn stadium were delighted with the decision. Chairman, Daniel Levy, said: “The club has led on lobbying the Government for safe-standing at stadia and is delighted that this will now be possible. It delivers choice for fans attending the game – whether home or away supporters – and the vast majority of our fans are in favour of this scheme.
“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.”
Chief Executive of the SGSA, Martyn Henderson, added: “The focus of the SGSA is the safety of all fans at sports grounds. We know there is a safety risk arising from fans who persistently stand in seated areas, demonstrated in independent research. We also know many fans want the choice to stand.
“The advent of new engineering solutions and the findings from our research has shown this can be managed safely. Today’s announcement will enable us to properly test and evaluate licensed standing areas and advise the Government in its next steps.
“We are taking a careful, evidence-based approach to this historic change, again using independent researchers to evaluate any lessons to be learnt.”
Over the remaining part of the season, research will be carried out at the grounds by CFE Research, to evaluate the implementation of licensed standing areas at early adopter grounds. This research will be provided to Government to inform its decisions about the potential wider roll-out of licensed standing from the start of next season.
All grounds subject to the Government’s all-seater policy were invited to apply to become early adopters. Clubs had to meet a number of criteria in order to receive approval to have licensed standing areas, including:
– The necessary infrastructure being in place before 1 January 2022 – such as seats with barriers/independent barriers – which must be in both home and away sections.
– The seats cannot be locked in the ‘up’ or ‘down’ position, allowing fans the option of being able to sit (for example, during breaks in play).
– There must also be one seat/space per person.
– The licensed standing areas must not impact the viewing standards or other fans, including disabled fans.
– There must be a Code of Conduct in place for fans in the licensed standing area.
– Briefing and training must be in place for staff and stewards to ensure only relevant ticketholders are admitted to the licensed standing areas.
– CCTV must be in place and offer full coverage of the licensed standing areas.
– The ground must consult with its Safety Advisory Group about plans for the licensed standing areas.
The SGSA are keen to stress however that this is not a reintroduction of terraces in top-flight grounds and other areas of the ground, without barriers, and will remain subject to the Government’s all-seater policy.
The introduction of licensed standing areas follows research conducted during the 2019/20 season, prior to the onset of the pandemic, which found that seats with barriers/independent barriers helped reduce the safety risks related to standing in seated areas. Read the full report here
Image: Alex Motoc – unsplash