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Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston 'minded' to allow safe standing next season
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston says he is “minded” to allow stadiums to have licensed standing areas next season.
Five Premier League and Championship clubs took part in a government-commissioned pilot study during the second half of this campaign.
Rails in some seated areas allowed fans to stand while their safety was independently assessed.
There is currently an all-seater policy at grounds in the top two divisions.
In April, an interim report by CFE Research – commissioned by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) – said safe standing at grounds has had “a positive impact on spectator safety” and improved the matchday experience.
Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham and Cardiff City were part of the ‘early adopters’ programme set up by the SGSA.
On 2 January, Stamford Bridge became the first top-flight ground to allow licensed standing in almost 30 years when Chelsea and Liverpool met in a 2-2 Premier League draw.
Huddleston said: “Alongside the SGSA, we have carefully considered the findings of the interim report, and with this robust evidence in hand, I am ‘minded to’ change the existing all-seater policy to allow all clubs currently subject to this requirement to introduce licensed standing areas for the start of the 2022-23 season, provided they have met certain strict criteria.”
Huddleston said a final decision is subject to the CFE Research Final Evaluation Report confirming the findings of the interim report.
“The government’s approach has been driven by safety considerations throughout and this will continue to be our priority,” he said.
Crowd management and safety is under the spotlight after recent pitch invasions by fans.
Designated standing areas had not been seen at Premier League grounds since the adoption of all-seater stadiums in the early 1990s – a recommendation of the Taylor Report following the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 when 97 fans died following a crush.
Spectators at many grounds have continued to stand in seated areas, most commonly behind the goals, despite regular warnings from local authorities and police that it is dangerous.