Safe-Standing Set To Return To Top Flight Football Grounds
Standing at top flight football is set to return from 1st January after Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston instructed the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) to take the first steps in creating licensed standing areas at Premier League and Championship clubs.
Football clubs subject to the Government’s all-seater policy, which has been in place for more than three decades, have been invited to apply to offer licensed standing areas, as part of an ‘early adopter’ programme.
The historic announcement is a vital step towards fulfilling the Government’s manifesto commitment to introducing safe standing areas at football grounds.
Clubs will have until 6 October to submit an application to the SGSA to become an early adopter. If approved, they will be able to offer licensed standing areas from 1 January 2022, but will have to meet a number of criteria in order to receive Government and SGSA approval, including:
– The necessary infrastructure being in place – such as seats with barriers/independent barriers – which must be in both home and away sections.
– Fans must be able to sit or stand in the licensed area – the seats cannot be locked in the ‘up’ or ‘down’ position. 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.
– The ground must consult with its Safety Advisory Group about plans for the licensed standing areas.
The licensed standing areas will be independently evaluated from their introduction in January for the remainder of the 2021/22 season. Other parts of the ground will remain all-seated and fans will be expected to sit in these areas.
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.”
Martyn Henderson, Chief Executive of the SGSA, added: “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. Today’s announcement will enable us to properly test and evaluate licensed standing areas before the Government decides its next steps.”
The news was welcomed by the Football Supporters Association (FSA) which has argued that standing could be introduced – an argument backed by the overwhelming majority of supporters.
Kevin Miles, chief executive of the FSA and longstanding Safe Standing campaigner, said: “We are beyond delighted to finally claim a win for the FSA’s Safe Standing campaign after extra time, penalties and more than a few replays and postponements!
“Today’s announcement is the result of prolonged and sustained campaigning by football fans – a victory for ordinary people with ordinary jobs who refused to accept the Taylor Report’s contention that standing could not be managed safely.”
Pete Daykin, the co-ordinator of the FSA’s Safe Standing campaign, added: “Today’s announcement is an outbreak of common sense! It brings to an end a farcical situation in which fans at every ground continue to stand in their thousands – often to the detriment of those who can’t or don’t want to stand behind them – but that clubs can’t officially recognise or tackle in a constructive, proactive way.”
Today’s announcement starts the legal process needed for clubs to offer licensed standing areas from 1st January. Clubs will need to complete an application form and return it to the SGSA, who will then evaluate the applications and make recommendations to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
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 persistent standing.