Premier League and Championship clubs offered chance to trial safe standing 4 weeks ago

Premier League and Championship clubs offered chance to trial safe standing

Clubs have been invited to apply to a pilot programme

Premier League and Championship clubs could introduce licensed safe standing areas from January 2022 if there is sufficient interest expressed in a pilot programme.

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Since 1994, all stadiums in England and Wales in the top two tiers have been required to be all-seater venues. But that could change next year, after the Sports Ground Safety Authority announced a trial of introducing safe standing, which has been a lot of success across Europe, as well as at Celtic Park.

Clubs have been invited to apply to the pilot programme, and if successful, "they will be able to offer licensed standing areas from 1 January 2022," said the SGSA.

Since the Taylor Report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, in which 97 Liverpool fans lost their lives, standing has been outlawed at English football.

And fan safety remains paramount in the new pilot scheme, with the SGSA stipulating that clubs meet a number of criteria in order to be welcomed onto the programme, including seats with independent barriers in both the home and away ends.

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Fans must be able to sit or stand in the licensed area, with one space allocated to each fan in attendance.

The SGSA also insist that the licensed area must not impede the viewing experience of any other fans in the stadium, and that there must be a code of conduct in place for fans in the licensed standing area.

Rail seating was first seen in English football in 2018, with Wolves leading the way by bringing in rail seating at Molineux.

The Conservatives pledged in their 2019 manifesto to work towards the introduction of safe standing across more stadiums and if this trial is successful, legislation could be implemented over the next few years that would allow more clubs bring it in.

"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," said UK sports minister Nigel Huddleston.

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"With independent research now complete, and capacity crowds back at grounds across the country, now is the right time to make progress."

SGSA chief executive Martyn Henderson said: "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."

"This announcement will enable us to properly test and evaluate licensed standing areas before the government decides its next steps."