Safe standing: a new era for Premier League fans

For many years, standing during games in British football has been banned. However, from 1st of January 2022 four top Premier league clubs are going to be pioneering change. These clubs are Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, all of which have been granted permission to trial safe standing in certain areas of the stadiums. A cutting edge, new approach to how fans can watch their favourite teams in person.

The reason this is so significant is because standing during games in English football stadiums has been banned since 1989. As a result of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which tragically led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans.

In recent years, fans have been campaigning tirelessly for the government to pass new laws in order to reintroduce the possibility of standing at a match. On the morning of the 8th of November 2021, UK 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.”

This news was and still is music to their ears, if you’re lucky enough to be watching either Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester United or Manchester City, New Year’s Day football cannot come soon enough. The times of wanting to stand and sing your heart out to get behind your team without being told by a steward almost instantly to sit down are almost over!

In the 32 years since the Hillsborough disaster technology has been developed that allows for standing-only sections in stadiums that are dramatically safer and reduce the possibility of crashes between fans during matches, including rails in each row that discourage people from moving forward. This is “safe standing” and clubs hope to implement it fully next season.

The number of fans allowed to take part in the trial to see whether safe standing can be implemented everywhere will be limited but at new stadiums such as the Tottenham Hotspur stadium more than 10,000 fans will be able to stand. ​​​Tottenham’s new stadium was built with the aspiration to be one of the first clubs to have safe standing within the Premier League.

The head of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) Ken Scott, has drawn up the following criteria for safe standing to be implemented:

“Following the SGSA regulations, each standing fan needs 0.2m² of personal space. The requirement limits the numbers permitted per site, especially in England’s more traditional and older stadiums, up and down the country. The necessary infrastructure is also required in both the home and away areas, ensuring that the view of other fans is not affected.”

The SGSA are going to publish a study to the government to see whether more Premier League clubs can join the current four with safe standing next season.

In many other countries such as Germany’s top football division-the Bundesliga, safe standing areas are already customary in their football lifestyle. There are almost identical examples in Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, US and Australia.

English football fans will now wait with excitement to see how the trials go for the second half of the season.

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Juliette Rebold Stead

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June 2022
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