It was announced this afternoon that selected Premier League and Championship clubs have been invited to pilot safe standing in their stadiums from January 1.
Since 1994 grounds in the first and second tier of English football have been required to be all-seaters after standing was outlawed following recommendations made in the Taylor Report into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
Campaigners have called for standing to be reintroduced in England in recent seasons and the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) are now giving Premier League and Championship clubs the opportunity to submit an application by October 6 to be offered licensed standing areas from January 1 2022.
In today’s statement, UK 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.”
If the trial period proves successful then legislation could be introduced for all stadiums in England’s top two divisions within the next few years.
What is the criteria to be part of the trial?
Clubs that want to be part of the trial period for safe standing will need to fulfil a number of criteria that the SGSA have set out. This includes:
The necessary infrastructure being in place – such as seats with barriers/independent barriers – which must be in both home and away sections Fans must be able to sit or stand – the seats cannot be locked in the “up” or “down” position – and there must be one seat/space per person The standing area must not impact the viewing standards of other fans There must be a code of conduct in place for fans in the licensed standing area The ground must consult with its Safety Advisory Group about plans for the licensed standing areas
Tottenham Hotspur, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Cardiff City and Bristol City are among the clubs whose stadiums would be able to accommodate safe standing areas the easiest. Other clubs would need to carry out stadium adjustments to accommodate the standing areas.
What does this mean for Sheffield United and Sheffield Wednesday?
Unlike Cardiff City and Bristol City, Sheffield United don’t have rail seating at Bramall Lane and so currently wouldn’t meet the criteria to participate in the safe standing trial.
However, Blades fans will be eager to see if a change is considered by the club, who could offer plenty of opportunity for both standing and sitting in their 32,050 capacity stadium.
If the Blades aren’t to apply to be part of the trial but it is successful, Sheffield United could potentially introduce safe standing areas over the next few years.
From January 1 fans travelling to the likes of Cardiff and Bristol may be able to enjoy safe standing in their away sections.
Meanwhile, despite numerous League One clubs having safe standing areas at their grounds, Sheffield Wednesday can’t introduce it in Hillsborough Stadium as clubs that have been in the top tiers in the last three years are not allowed.
However, if the Owls are able to achieve their aim of an immediate return to the Championship next season then fans could be eligible to welcome safe standing to their stadium. If is thought, though, that it is not something that the club are considering in the short term.