Safe standing to be authorised in Premier League and Championship from start of next season

·3-min read
Wolves fans applaud from their SAFE STANDING area - Paul Marriott/NMC Pool
Wolves fans applaud from their SAFE STANDING area - Paul Marriott/NMC Pool

Next season’s FA Cup and League Cup finals at Wembley will feature safe standing sections after the Government gave top clubs the all-clear to open standing areas in their grounds.

Premier League and Championship teams will now be able to introduce safe standing sections from the start of next season, following a successful trial earlier this year.

A report on last season’s trial has recommended that clubs be given the opportunity to create standing areas as soon as possible, and ministers believe the introduction of more standing sections will help to reduce crowd disorder and violence at stadiums.

Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Cardiff City took part in an “early adopter” programme in the second half of last season, and they will now be joined by Brentford, Queens Park Rangers and Wolverhampton Wanderers in offering licensed standing areas to home and away supporters.

It is expected that a series of other clubs will be following suit during the course of the upcoming campaign.

At Wembley, there will be a “small licensed standing area” for domestic matches this season, the Government announced. This would include the FA Cup final and semi-finals and the League Cup final, but not international fixtures due to Uefa and Fifa regulations.

A report on last season’s trial found that safe standing areas allowed for better stewarding and made it easier to identify the risk of overcrowding. There was also no evidence that introducing standing areas led to an increase in standing in other areas of the ground.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said “safety is at the heart” of the move towards more standing areas as he hailed a “big day” for football.

Fans in standing areas will be strictly limited to a “one person, one space” policy and all clubs who want to introduce safe standing will need to meet safety criteria, including enhanced use of CCTV.

Huddleston said safe standing will provide an “electric atmosphere” at grounds and expressed his belief that the sections will slow the worrying rise in crowd disorder.

“The physical infrastructure of the [safe standing barriers or rails] actually makes it quite difficult to move backwards and forwards or climb over a seat,” he said.

“You have got to be pretty athletic to be able to do that. Plus, it comes with enhanced CCTV footage and also a code of conduct and behaviour as well.

“For those who are behaving, it is going to be a great experience. But if you misbehave in a safe standing area, you are more likely to get CCTV footage covering you. The evidence suggests that actually it reduces the chances of bad behaviour.”

Meanwhile, it is understood that the Premier League will encourage broadcasters to stop showing footage of pyrotechnics that have been set off by supporters at matches.

There was an apparent surge in the use of flares last season, prompting new safety guidance for clubs. There is a sense that dramatic images of the devices might help to glamorise the use of pyrotechnics, and broadcasters will be advised to cut back on footage of the billowing smoke.

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