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Safe Standing Fan Engagement – Lincoln City FC Case Study

With Lincoln City Football Club being a Voluntary All-Seater ground, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) is keen to highlight the work the club has been doing to engage with fans on persistent standing as a case study of good practice in favour of licensed/safe standing to address spectator demand for such areas.

From the extensive technical research conducted, to the thorough engagement with fans, the club has been doing some great work to identify the need and amount of standing areas at the ground.

Lincoln City begun taking voluntary action in tackling the level of persistent standing occurring at the ground in order to improve safety and fan experience in their well-established ‘singing section’. The club also wanted to take proactive steps following SGSA’s ‘early adopter’ research of licensed standing areas in football stadia and the change in legislation in July 2022.

Above all, the club recognised the positive impact in taking innovative steps to invest in the grounds infrastructure to benefit fan safety and experience.

Whilst the club delved into the technical elements of installing barriers by consulting with SGSA’s Head of Inspectorate, Ken Scott MBE, and some of the ‘early adopter’ grounds for their particular experience, Lincoln City also put a lot of its focus on fan engagement.

To successfully engage with their supporters on the idea of installing barriers, the club took various carefully planned out methods of communicating. The approach was based around making sure the fans felt involved in each step of the club’s decision-making process. This was achieved in the following ways: 

  • Publishing the results of SGSA’s ‘early adopter’ studies to introduce the idea to supporters.
  • Openly discussing all ideas with the club’s Supporters Board.
  • Producing extensive fan surveys – From generic surveys sent to all fans, to surveys targeting specific areas of the ground directly and indirectly affected by the installation of barriers.
  • Organising public Fans Forums and using this platform to explain the plans and encouraged Q&A.
  • Providing a way for fans to anonymously feedback, ask questions or raise concerns through their website.
  • Analysing the feedback and organising targeted dialogue with specific supporters, addressing their concerns on a one-to-one basis.

During this engagement process, the club received overwhelming support for the installation of barriers. At the same time, the club encountered some challenges which they needed to overcome, most notably in terms of the perception and understanding of implementing safe standing in seated areas. Some supporters quite naturally referenced the historical tragedies which football has experienced, and questioned both the logic and to a degree, moral strategy, of what in some sections might be perceived as a step backwards.

Recognising this, the club saw an opportunity to allay such fears and misgivings around perceived crushing due to standing, by educating those supporters and focussing on the significant improvements in stadium safety management since those tragedies occurred.

Knowing the vast majority of supporters had an appetite for the introduction of safe standing, the club was able to move onto the more targeted consultation phase. At this stage the club reviewed feedback from those who expressed they do not wish to stand or are not able to stand.

During the consultation process the club identified specifically where everyone concerned would normally sit and whether they would be affected by the installation of barriers. Communication between club and fans was not an issue as most supporters were season ticket holders or a known member of their ‘singing section’.

Lincoln City was able to overcome the concerns raised by offering its supporters seat swaps in or out of the proposed standing areas, educating fans on the safety benefits with the ‘early adopter’ results and evidence from other clubs, and lastly, highlighting the improved fan experience that comes with offering supporters the option to stand at their ground.

The result of this consultation process is a project which will not only improve safety in critical areas of the stadium, but also enhance the matchday fan experience for many. And for any other stadium considering installing safe standing, Lincoln City has one piece of advice – invest in fan engagement and consult with supporters from the outset, let them be part of the decision-making process and take them on the journey with you.

Pyrotechnics Education Campaign

Following several well publicised instances of pyrotechnics being used within stadiums by the public, and recognising the dangers they can present to fans and others, the SGSA has been in discussions with the police, supporter groups and football governing bodies about appropriate advice and guidance on how to manage and prevent the illegal use of pyrotechnics.

As a result, the SGSA has developed an education campaign toolkit to raise awareness of the risks associated with the use of pyrotechnics and to help ensure safety officers, their safety teams, staff, players and officials at clubs are fully aware of the responsibilities around pyrotechnics. The document also compliments and reaffirms advice from the ‘Pyrotechnics in Stadia’ report published by UEFA in 2016.

The toolkit reinforces the following key messages:

If the illegal use of a pyrotechnic does take place, those who might attempt to deal with pyrotechnic devices should follow the three-stage approach:


This campaign is supported by all members of a Pyrotechnics Working Group, made up of representatives from the EFL, FA, Football Supporters Association, Premier League and UK Football Policing Unit.

Chief Executive of the SGSA, Martyn Henderson, said: “Pyrotechnics are more dangerous than many people appreciate so we strongly encourage all clubs to use this toolkit as guidance on how to manage and eliminate their use.”

The contents of the ‘Pyrotechnics Education – Campaign Toolkit’ and its accompanying video is a useful resource for all venues, including non-designated grounds.

Content and Resources
Links to view and download the campaign assets can be found below.

Safe standing at football stadiums to be rolled out next season

  • Brentford, QPR and Wolves latest clubs to confirm they will have safe standing at games 
  • Follows Cardiff City, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur acting as ‘early adopters’ in trial last season
  • Wembley Stadium set to offer a small licensed standing area for fans at domestic matches as the government delivers manifesto commitment

The Government has confirmed that Premier League and Championship clubs wishing to introduce licensed ‘safe standing’ areas at football stadiums will be allowed to do so from the start of the forthcoming 2022/23 season.

Brentford, Queens Park Rangers and Wolverhampton Wanderers will be the first clubs to join ‘early adopters’ Cardiff City, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in offering licensed standing in designated seated areas for home and away fans.

Other clubs are expected to adopt licensed standing areas during the course of the football season.

The iconic Wembley Stadium will also offer a small licensed standing area for fans at forthcoming domestic matches later this season.

Culture Secretary, Nadine Dorries said: 

“We want to make the experience of watching football as magical as the play on the pitch. 

“Fans will now be able to cheer on their team from a seat or join others in a safe standing section to really get behind the players and roar on their heroes to victory.

“We are not reintroducing terraces and only clubs which meet strict safety criteria will be permitted. Thanks to a robust trial, thorough evidence and modern engineering, we are now ready to allow standing once again in our grounds.” 

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.

“I am proud of the work that has gone into this rigorous process and that we have delivered on our manifesto commitment to get fans back on their feet in stadiums.”

The stadiums have been selected following an application process, open to all grounds covered by the all-seater policy, led by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA). Strict conditions have been met, including enhanced use of CCTV, improved steward training and fans being strictly limited to ‘one person, one space’. Clubs have also engaged with fans as part of their application process.

A final report on last season’s Government-commissioned trial at the early adopter clubs has 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. The report recommends that clubs should be given the opportunity to implement licensed standing areas as soon as possible.

An interim report into the trial, published by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) in April, found that:

  • Goal celebrations being more orderly with no opportunity for forwards and backwards movement of fans, reducing the risk of fans falling on those around them;
  • Barriers offering stability for people moving up and down aisles and gangways;
  • Latecomers being able to access their seats in the middle of rows more quickly, as others are already standing and have barriers to lean against to allow them to pass.
  • Pockets of overcrowding being easier to identify to security officials, as fans are lined up more clearly

The final report concludes:

  • The exit of fans from the stadia is more uniform because the barriers limit spectators’ ability to climb over seats to exit more quickly;
  • Spectators are lined up more clearly and therefore any risk of overcrowding can be identified, particularly using CCTV;
  • Stewards can be put in more locations without risking impacting sightlines;
  • There is no evidence to date that the introduction of licensed standing areas has led to an increase in standing elsewhere in stadia

The announcement was made by Sports Minister Nigel Huddleson at Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane stadium, after he joined fans in the club’s 10,000-strong safe standing area to watch the North London club win 1-0 against Burnley on 15 May.

Sports Grounds Safety Authority Chief Executive, Martyn Henderson OBE said: 

“We welcome the controlled return of standing for the modern era, which has been made possible by a very close collaboration with the Government.  

‘This is an historic moment for football – and, most importantly, for the fans who have campaigned for this change and will be safer as a result of today’s decision.”

Chief Executive of the Football Supporters’ Association, Kevin Miles said:

“Match-going supporters know the benefits of safe standing are enormous, with better atmospheres and more choice for fans, whether they prefer to sit or stand.  

“The FSA has always made the case that football clubs should be able to talk to their fanbase and work together to find the ideal mix of seating and standing at every club. That’s now possible and it’s no surprise at all that more clubs are already looking to join last season’s early adopters and install their own safe standing areas.”

Senior Research Manager for CFE Research, Jo Welford said:

“Over the last three years we have been able to gather evidence from a range of grounds, and have seen that the installation of barriers, alongside being able to run these areas as licensed standing sections, has a positive impact on the safety of fans who stand so it seems a logical conclusion to this work to see a policy change that allows this across football.   

“Barriers along every row are effective at preventing fans falling forward, and so the primary benefit is a reduced risk of injury during goal celebrations. But there are other benefits too – fans in those areas have something to hold onto for stability, and it is harder for people to move around in sections. We surveyed fans in those areas and the vast majority reported feeling safe, they feel well protected by the barriers and being able to stand and watch football without being asked to sit down has improved the matchday experience too.”

Cardiff City, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur took part in the early adopter programme during the second half of the 2021/2022 season. A 2-2 draw on 2 January between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge kicked off the test events.

Under licensed standing, fans are allowed to stand for matches in allocated spaces behind a barrier or a rail in areas of persistent standing. Each supporter has to occupy the same area they would take if they were sitting, with a traceable, numbered ticket.

Seats cannot be locked in the up or down position, so fans can can sit if they wish to, and the standing areas cannot affect the views of other fans. Other parts of the grounds remain all-seated and fans are expected to sit in these areas.

Standing areas are already commonplace in Germany’s Bundesliga and there are similar examples across the rest of Europe, the United States and Australia.

The necessary legislative amendments to the Football Spectators Act have been tabled in Parliament today (4 July).

Sustainable lessons

Sustainability is an important issue globally.  But how can sports grounds be more sustainable, and does it impact on safety?

The SGSA’s lead for sustainability, Ann Ramage, visited Forest Green Rovers FC – recognised by the UN as the world’s first carbon neutral football club and described by FIFA as the greenest team in the world – to find out.  Here, she reflects on her visit.

In 2010, Dale Vince took over at Forest Green Rovers and has been determined to challenge football’s orthodoxies.  He brought in an environmental charter, which states: “in any apparent conflict between the environment and money – we put the environment first”.  Since then, the club has made wholesale changes, including:

  • Eco-innovations at the ground, such as the installation of solar panels, the use of a solar-powered robot grass mower, and the world’s first organic football pitch.
  • Cutting out all red meat from the menu for the team and its fans, then eventually going completely vegan.
  • Making the team football kit from recycled plastic and coffee grounds.
  • Next season the club also plans to install public toilets using technology astronauts used in space.

The changes have also had a positive impact on the local community. Their vegan and allergen-free dishes solved a real problem for local schools and colleges which have a diverse intake with varying dietary requirements.  This has now expanded to over 2,000 schools, colleges and universities.

Despite the changes that have been implemented at the club’s New Lawn Stadium, there are plans to build a new venue.  In 2019 planning permission was obtained for a low-carbon, all-timber stadium designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, including office and industrial space reserved for companies working in the zero-carbon economy.  The architects know that the very thought of a timbre stadium raises the spectre of the Bradford City disaster and claim to have designed the new stadium with the Green Guide at the front of their minds.

Importantly, Forest Green Rovers’ environmental message is spreading.  In October 2021 the EFL launched its Green Clubs scheme, based on the innovations pioneered at Forest Green Rovers.  The scheme involves EFL members signing up for a ‘Green Code’ which requires improvements to environmental governance, with assessments of pollution, energy and water use, and transport options.

This visit was inspiring from the point of view of sustainability.  It was great to find a football club challenging out-dated assumptions about what can be achieved in terms of design and behaviour change.

Understanding the steward exemption

Under the Private Security Industry Act (PSIA) 2001, some security roles undertaken in sports grounds in England and Wales are exempt from Security Industry Authority (SIA) licensing.

The exemption only applies in certain circumstances, and it may not always be clear whether an SIA licence is needed.

To help clarify, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) and SIA have put together a document explaining when a SIA licence is needed at a sports ground.

Understanding the steward exemption (PDF)

New research highlights safety requirements of Neurodiverse fans at live sporting events

Developments to ticketing, staff training and matchday information will improve the experience of neurodiverse fans, according to new research commissioned by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA).

The research, carried out in partnership with Level Playing Field and conducted by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), aimed to better understand the experiences and safety requirements of neurodiverse fans when attending live sporting events.

Neurodiverse Sports Fans Report – Safety, accessibility and experiences when attending live events (PDF)

The key aim of this report was to recognise and highlight the access requirements of neurodiverse sports fans and how these related to questions about maintaining a safe environment within stadia and grounds.

Chief Executive of the SGSA, Martyn Henderson, said: “Sports grounds should be welcoming and safe environments for everyone. This research is a vital first step towards addressing the lack of evidence around the access needs of neurodiverse sports fans.”

The research explores the experiences of neurodiverse fans before and after sports events, including buying tickets, planning trips, as well as experiences of travel to venues, entry and exit.

According to NatCen’s findings, although participants reported positive experiences attending live events, there were many areas where experiences could be improved, and there is scope for further support.

Suggestions for improvements were made across the whole of the spectator journey: from those related to ticketing and information provision before the match, to the day itself. More generally suggestions were also made about how clubs could engage with neurodiverse fans.

The research included interviews and focus groups with 24 neurodiverse sports fans (including companions/carers/guardians) to explore issues from participants’ point of view. Experiences at a range of different types of sports were included in the research, but attendance was more frequent at football.

The types of neurodiversity that were represented across the study were: autism; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); dyslexia; dyspraxia; and Tourette’s syndrome. Due to the diversity of conditions, people had different characteristics and requirements.

Feedback from participants revealed the following areas needed improving:

  • Booking tickets. Participants wanted an easier process of booking that would reduce the need to repeatedly explain or justify their access requirements.
  • Information provision ahead of the day. Being able to plan improved confidence. Participants wanted more information available in advance of events, covering: what to expect in terms of arrival and transport; security checks and what could be brought into the venue; seating layout; and who they could speak to for help.
  • Venue Arrival. Being physically close to other people can be overstimulating and lead to a rise in anxiety. Participants wanted greater availability of accessible parking or more drop off locations nearer the venues. They also felt there should be more accessible entrances with consistent staffing who understand neurodiverse spectators.
  • Staffing. Negative encounters were reported arising from a lack of understanding from staff. They felt staff, particularly stewards, should receive training to be more aware of, better understand and support neurodiverse fans. Where participants received support from disability access or liaison officers, this was generally a positive experience.
    “Knowledge is key, the training of stewards is the way forward as they are on the grounds with the fans” (said carer of child with ADHD and Tourette’s, who attends football and ice hockey).
  • Venue design. Negative experiences where venues had narrow concourses and gangways or closely packed seating were reported. Being able to pick appropriate seating improved this. Fans often relied on support from other people to find their way around venues, but suggested new stadia should be built with wider, more spacious concourses, gangways, and seating. Signage could also be improved using pictures, colours, and larger text.
  • Facilities. Participants were supportive of the provision of sensory rooms for neurodiverse children and for those with more complex needs but noted that there were various limitations to these. They advocated having more quiet spaces closer to seating areas that could be accessed without prior booking and be used as a space to moderate anxiety or stress.
  • Safety. Many of the factors that improved participants’ overall experience also made them feel safer while attending live events. These included accessible/open seating and accessible venue design, support from family or friends, and a strong presence of trustworthy staff who understood the requirements of the range of fans.
  • Engagement from clubs/venues. Finally, participants wanted greater engagement from clubs and venues with their neurodiverse fans, through a ‘neurodiversity champion’ to understand the requirements among the supporter base. Participants also felt that clubs/venues could do more to raise awareness with other spectators.

The study aimed to better understand the accessibility requirements of neurodiverse fans and establish what can be done to make reasonable adjustments and improve their experiences. Participants were happy that this research was being conducted by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority and Level Playing Field as they saw this as a step towards developing such standards.

There is clearly a growing interest in this subject, and many venues are already making steps to adapt and improve their provisions. Level Playing Field will be integrating the key findings from the study into their new Accessible Stadia Guide, which will be published towards the end of 2022.

Chair of Level Playing Field, Tony Taylor, said: “We are delighted to have a research project such as this take place. The matchday experience for Neurodiverse fans is often an unknown quantity and can present barriers for fans attending or having a lesser experience when they do so.

“The findings of this research project will allow progress to be made in enhancing access and inclusion for neurodiverse fans. We are fully aware that more still needs to be done, but hope that this research will lead to a large scale research project in the future and, of course, greater access and inclusion at sports stadia.

“We are grateful to the SGSA for commissioning and supporting this important project, and to NatCen for delivering it.”

Neurodiverse Sports Fans Report – Safety, accessibility and experiences when attending live events (PDF)