"Many benefits" - Sheffield United reveal discussions over allowing safe standing at Bramall Lane
Sheffield United have held preliminary discussions over allowing safe standing at Bramall Lane after admitting they see “many benefits” in the plan.
Standing areas in the Premier League and Championship were outlawed in the 1990s, in legislation passed in the wake of the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989.
Bramall Lane was subsequently made into an all-seater venue, but there has been considerable support in recent years for safe seating to be explored and a statement from the Sports Grounds Safety Authority today set out plans to carry out a pilot programme from January 1 next year.
In a statement, United said: "Sheffield United sees many benefits in operating a safe standing area at Bramall Lane and have held preliminary discussions with the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA).
“We will continue to explore our options before committing further."
The SGSA said the project would be independently evaluated, with all other areas of the stadia remaining all-seater.
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.
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said: “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.
“With independent research now complete, and capacity crowds back at grounds across the country, now is the right time to make progress. I look forward to hearing from clubs who wish to be part of our early adopters programme during the second half of this season."
Clubs must meet a range of criteria in order to gain approval.
These include having the necessary infrastructure in both home and away areas of their stadium, allowing fans to sit or stand in the standing areas with the seats not locked in the 'up' or 'down' position, ensuring the areas do not impact on the view for other fans including those with disabilities, providing a code of conduct for standing fans and consulting with the relevant Safety Advisory Group.
SGSA chief executive Martyn Henderson said: "The focus of the SGSA is the safety and enjoyment of all fans at sports grounds.
"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.
"Today's announcement will enable us to properly test and evaluate licensed standing areas before the Government decides its next steps."
The move comes after research conducted during the 2019-20 season, before the coronavirus pandemic began, which found that seats with barriers or independent barriers helped reduce the safety risk of persistent standing.
Football Supporters' Association chief executive Kevin Miles welcomed the move, saying: "We are beyond delighted to finally claim a win for the FSA's Safe Standing campaign after extra time, penalties and more than a few replays and postponements!
"Today's announcement is the result of prolonged and sustained campaigning by football fans - a victory for ordinary people with ordinary jobs who refused to accept the Taylor Report's contention that standing could not be managed safely.”