The Government has confirmed that Premier League and Championship clubs wishing to introduce licensed ‘safe standing’ areas at football stadiums will be allowed to do so from the start of the forthcoming 2022/23 season.

Brentford, Queens Park Rangers and Wolverhampton Wanderers will be the first clubs to join ‘early adopters’ Cardiff City, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in offering licensed standing in designated seated areas for home and away fans.

Other clubs are expected to adopt licensed standing areas during the course of the football season.

The iconic Wembley Stadium will also offer a small licensed standing area for fans at forthcoming domestic matches later this season.

The stadiums 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).

Strict conditions have been met, including enhanced use of CCTV, improved steward training and fans being strictly limited to ‘one person, one space’. Clubs have also engaged with fans as part of their application process.

A final report on last season’s Government-commissioned trial at the early adopter clubs has concluded that the installation of barriers or rails in areas of persistent standing in seated areas has delivered a positive impact on spectator safety and improved fans’ match day experience in both home and away sections. The report recommends that clubs should be given the opportunity to implement licensed standing areas as soon as possible.

An interim report into the trial, published by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) in April, found that:

  • Goal celebrations being more orderly with no opportunity for forwards and backwards movement of fans, reducing the risk of fans falling on those around them;
  • Barriers offering stability for people moving up and down aisles and gangways;
  • Latecomers being able to access their seats in the middle of rows more quickly, as others are already standing and have barriers to lean against to allow them to pass;
  • Pockets of overcrowding being easier to identify to security officials, as fans are lined up more clearly

The final report concludes:

  • The exit of fans from the stadia is more uniform because the barriers limit spectators’ ability to climb over seats to exit more quickly;
  • Spectators are lined up more clearly and therefore any risk of overcrowding can be identified, particularly using CCTV;
  • Stewards can be put in more locations without risking impacting sight lines;
  • There is no evidence to date that the introduction of licensed standing areas has led to an increase in standing elsewhere in stadia

The announcement was made by Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston at Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane stadium, after he joined fans in the club’s 10,000-strong safe standing area to watch the North London club win 1-0 against Burnley on 15 May.

Cardiff City, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur took part in the early adopter programme during the second half of the 2021/2022 season. A 2-2 draw on 2 January between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge kicked off the test events.

Under licensed standing, fans are allowed to stand for matches in allocated spaces behind a barrier or a rail in areas of persistent standing. Each supporter has to occupy the same area they would take if they were sitting, with a traceable, numbered ticket.

Seats cannot be locked in the up or down position, so fans can can sit if they wish to, and the standing areas cannot affect the views of other fans. Other parts of the grounds remain all-seated and fans are expected to sit in these areas.

Standing areas are already commonplace in Germany’s Bundesliga and there are similar examples across the rest of Europe, the United States and Australia.

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