Premier League and Championship clubs given green light on safe standing areas

All clubs in the top two tiers of English football can apply to operate licensed secure areas next season, the government has said.

Cardiff, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham took part in a safe permanent pilot in the second half of last season and Brentford, QPR and Wolves will now join these clubs in providing designated areas for home and away fans. outdoors from the start of the 2022-23 Season.

The government has also confirmed that Wembley will also offer limited security to supporters of both groups of clubs at domestic matches later in the season, while other clubs are expected to apply as the season progresses.

The Chelsea v Liverpool Premier League match on January 2 this year was the first of the safe permanent driver (Adam Davy/PA)

The Football Association will test safety rails during England’s Nations League game against Germany in September, but at this stage spectators should remain seated.

Once testing is complete, and if approval is given by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA), 892 seats in the lowest tier behind each goal – 1,784 seats in total – will be in designated standing areas .

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston had said in May that he was “willing” to offer the option to all Premier League and Championship clubs based on the interim results of independent research into the driver.

The pilot marked the end of a blanket ban on standing in the top two tiers of English football which had been in place for more than 25 years, with these clubs required to provide accommodation for all seats since August 1994 following of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, where 97 Liverpool supporters lost their lives.

It is understood that Liverpool are not planning to introduce a safe position for next season, but could extend or increase their existing rail seating arrangement after running a separate club driver last season.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said the safe deployment was a good day for football
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said the safe deployment was a good day for football (Matt Crossick/PA)

Huddleston told the PA news agency: ‘We are confident now that we can deploy a secure position.

“We have worked with many stakeholders, especially the families of Hillsborough, because it is really important that we take into account everyone’s views and opinions.

“The fans want it, we can do it safely, and I think it’s a good day for football.”

The safety report, compiled by CFE Research, acknowledged the increase in anti-social behavior and disorder at football matches over the past season, but said this was not attributable to the introduction of zones of security.

Pitch invasions marred a number of late-season games, but the report found such invasions were actually more difficult from safe standing areas because barriers restrict downward movement into the pitch.

The report found that the barriers also help protect against gradual crowd collapse, where supporters rush forward and push people into the rows in front, creating a domino effect.

Barriers in safe standing areas make terrain invasions more difficult, an independent Safe Standing Pilot report has concluded
Barriers in safe standing areas make terrain invasions more difficult, an independent Safe Standing Pilot report has concluded (Martin Rickett/PA)

He also found no evidence that safe standing zones led to increased standing in other parts of the stadium.

More than half of fans surveyed in the research – 52% – said they felt safer with the introduction of safe standing areas, and only 5% said they felt less safe.

However, the research did point to some ‘isolated incidents’ of fans climbing the barriers, with one supporter interviewed saying they suffered a back injury after someone fell from a barrier on them, forcing them off work for three months.

The majority of those polled – 85% – said they had never, or rarely, seen such incidents, but the report urged clubs and the SGSA to take action to mitigate the risk.

These included comprehensive, high-quality CCTV footage, asking club stewards to support local stewards, updated codes of conduct specifically prohibiting such behavior and disciplinary action against those who engage in it.

Campaigners have pointed out that leaving seats unlocked helps those wishing to climb over the barriers, but the report does not recommend changing the advice that seats must remain unlocked, so that supporters have the opportunity to sit during the game if they wish.

The report also highlighted that the experience of walking disabled supporters had been negatively affected by the introduction of safe rest areas and that clubs should consult with all supporter groups, including disabled supporter associations, to fully understand the perspective of walking disabled alongside those using wheelchair bays. .

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