There has been talk for some time about introducing safe standing in the two highest leagues in the country. In 2019, the government assured about the imminent change of the regulations, but these were not introduced until 2 years later.
On January 1, 2022, a pilot programme will be launched, allowing fans to watch games standing up. Wednesday's decision of the government body is the aftermath of a campaign led by the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), which for 32 years sought approval for safe standing in English football.
Until October 6, clubs from England, playing in the two top divisions, can submit their application for participation in the scheme to the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA). Initial interest in applying was shown by Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers, which already have rail seats installed at their stadiums. Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham did the same at their grounds.
As a result of the legislative change, the requirement for supporters at English and Welsh stadiums to sit throughout the match, which has been in force since 1994, will end. This was the outcome of the so-called Taylor Report after the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
The SGSA has defined the criteria that a stadium must meet in order to implement safe standing:
- Having designated sections for hosts and visitors with rail seats
- Spectators in the licensed standing section must be able to sit or stand
- There is one seat/space per person
- Seats cannot be locked in the 'up' or 'down' position
- The licensed standing places must not affect the standard of viewing of other fans, including supporters with disabilities
The FSA has welcomed the new law and its officials believe it will significantly improve the atmosphere at football venues. Moreover, fans who decide to watch the match while standing will not obstruct the reception of the match to other supporters. The trials will last until the end of the current season. If they are successful, safe standing will be introduced permanently at grounds that meet required standards.
Author: Tomasz Sobura