Safe standing areas in Premier League and Championship football grounds approved for next season

Bristol City fans standing in a trial safe standing zone in 2021. Credit: PA

All clubs in the top two tiers of English football will be allowed to introduce safe standing areas next season after the government approved the move.

Several clubs have already said they will be signing up to introducing the areas after a pilot study in April found they could be safe and improve the viewing experience.

The report concluded that the installation of barriers or rails in areas of persistent standing in seated areas has delivered a positive impact on spectator safety and improved fans' matchday experience in both home and away sections.It found standing areas had multiple benefits including making goal celebrations more orderly with no opportunity for forwards and backwards movement of fans, reducing the risk of fans falling on those around them.

Most top flight clubs are expected to introduce standing areas. Credit: PA

It also found security officials would be able to better identify and disperse pockets of overcrowding.

Cardiff, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham were the clubs who took part in this season’s pilot. Chelsea’s match at home to Liverpool on January 2 was the first game to take part in the trial.

It marked the end of a blanket ban on standing in the top two tiers of English football which has been in place for more than 25 years, with those clubs having been required to provide all-seated accommodation since August 1994 in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.Brentford, Queens Park Rangers and Wolverhampton Wanderers will be the first clubs to join the 'early adopters' in offering licensed standing in designated seated areas for home and away fans.

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Wembley Stadium will also offer a small licensed standing area for fans at forthcoming domestic matches later this season.Other clubs are expected to adopt licensed standing areas during the course of the football season.

Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston said: "Based upon what I have experienced and we have learnt through the pilot programme, safe standing is set to deliver an electric atmosphere at our football stadiums.

"Fans have long campaigned for its introduction and we have worked carefully with supporters groups, including the families affected by the tragic Hillsborough football disaster."

The Liverpool Chelsea game on January 2 was the first match to take part in the trial. Credit: PA

Stadiums planning to introduce standing areas will have to meet strict safety criteria including improved CCTV, hiring extra stewards and giving all staff extra training.

There will also be strict rules on access with each supporter required to occupy the same area they would take if they were sitting, with a traceable, numbered ticket.

Seats in the standing areas must remain unlocked to allow spectators the option of sitting, an approach which has been criticised by some campaigners who argue this makes it easier for barriers to be climbed onto, and could cause an obstruction when exit from the area is required to be made quickly.

Standing areas are already commonplace in Europe, the United States and Australia.