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Licensed standing – post implementation evaluation

Following the introduction of licensed standing at the start of the 2022/23 season, the SGSA commissioned independent research to evaluate its implementation.

Research found that when barriers or rails are installed, forward movement is prevented which reduces the safety risks of fans falling on others around them.

Executive summary

One year on from the early adopter pilot, the positive impact of installing standing infrastructure and creating licensed standing areas continues to be experienced at both existing and newly licensed clubs. There has been no increase in the prevalence or severity of impact of residual risks than those reported in previous research. There remains isolated examples of spectators standing on barriers which must be continued to be challenged and monitored.

Success in eradicating or significantly reducing persistent standing levels is dependent on whether number of standing spaces meets the demand. A number of clubs with licensed standing are only converting partial sections; as well as potentially not meeting demand, this creates a risk of migration between standing and seated areas that safety teams must manage.

Management strategies remain largely effective when enacted on a matchday to mitigate residual risks, and early adopter clubs continue to refine strategies where improvements have been identified. There appears to be ongoing attempts to improve stewarding consistency and effectiveness, which will help.

The licensed standing criteria remains fit for purpose, though the requirement for home and away sections without specifying a number or proportion has led to some clubs having a quantity of infrastructure that does not fully address the level of persistent standing. Whilst for some clubs there may be reasonable reasons for installing small numbers of standing infrastructure to start with, this should be in conjunction with plans to increase until persistent standing reduced to minimal levels, or clubs risk action under the SGSA All-Seater Policy Enforcement Approach.

Clubs new to licensed standing for the 2022/23 season bring more learning around the implementation of this in different contexts. Slimline seats show that it is possible to create a licensed standing area in an old stadium with narrow seating row depths. The creation of a supporter-driven family-friendly standing area and the transition to a new stadium are examples of different scenarios where licensed standing has been effectively implemented and learning has be gathered.

There is likely to be an upsurge in clubs planning to install standing infrastructure and apply for a license in the next three years. This includes a range of club and ground sizes, and is motivated by a combination of addressing risks associated with persistent standing and enhancing the spectator experience. This research suggests that there should not be a particular concern that clubs will look to install infrastructure without also undertaking the necessary steps to fulfil the licensed standing criteria.

Further, no club without any standing infrastructure at the moment reported an intent to install only home or away infrastructure – all are planning on installing for both. This suggests that the requirement in the criteria to offer standing accommodation for home and away spectators is understood and accepted at most clubs. Perceived cost of the installation is the most-cited reason for not planning on installing infrastructure in the future.

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