Safe standing areas set to return to some Premier League and Championship grounds from 2022

Standing areas are set to be offered at selected Premier League and Championship grounds from January 1, ending a blanket ban on standing in the top two tiers of English football which has lasted for more than 25 years.
Tottenham Hotspur fans in the safe standing seating at their ground.Tottenham Hotspur fans in the safe standing seating at their ground.
Tottenham Hotspur fans in the safe standing seating at their ground.

Clubs subject to the Government’s all-seater policy will be invited to apply to join an ‘early adopter’ scheme by October 6, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority said.

Safe standing trials will then run at the approved clubs from New Year’s Day 2022 until the end of the current season.

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Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham and Wolves are among the top-flight clubs to have installed rail seating at their grounds.

Spurs and Manchester City are understood to be keen to be part of the pilot, and Liverpool said in June they were keen to trial temporary rail seating and then review it at the end of the campaign.

Championship club Cardiff said following the announcement of safe standing trials that they were installing seats with independent barriers in one area of their ground with a view to offering supporters a standing option this season.

The Football Supporters’ Association, which has campaigned in favour of safe standing for more than 30 years, described it as a “huge day” for match-going fans.

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Standing areas in what is now the Premier League and Championship were outlawed by legislation passed in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans.

Pete Daykin, the co-ordinator of the FSA’s Safe Standing campaign, described the news as “an outbreak of common sense”, and added: “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."

The introduction of the licensed standing areas follows a commitment by the Government in its 2019 General Election manifesto, and it is a move which has cross-party support.

League One clubs can already introduce safe standing in their grounds, however some have been reluctant to do so as under current rules standing areas would have to be removed if they were promoted to the Championship.

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Safe standing campaigner and Lib Dem Sunderland city councillor Stephen O’Brien said he hoped the news would one bring “greater choice, a better atmosphere and cheaper tickets” for Sunderland fans at the Stadium of Light.

He added: “Crucially it wouldn’t be a return to the terraces of the 1980s - rail seating has proper stewarding and safety mechanisms in place to protect fans and would be much better than the current situation where people stand up anyway in seated areas that aren’t properly designed for it.

"At the moment the big hurdle to SAFC or any other club in League 1 introducing safe standing is what happens if we get promoted back to the Championship next season and the safe standing area has to be closed due to the current Government ban.

"Clubs that have listened to fans and introduced safe standing should not be penalised if they get promoted.”