Licensed standing in seated areas

Cardiff City FC, Chelsea FC, Manchester City FC, Manchester United FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC will be the first clubs to have licensed ‘safe standing’ in seated areas from 1 January 2022, the Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston, has announced.

The five clubs will be the first in the top two tiers of football in England and Wales to allow standing in nearly 30 years. They will pioneer a new approach, which offers fans the opportunity to stand in certain areas.

The grounds 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).

The SGSA is taking a careful, evidence-based approach to this historic change, informed by consultation with our stakeholders and safety experts.

Licensed standing areas at early adopter grounds will be independently evaluated from their introduction in January for the remainder of the 2021/22 season, before the Government decides its next steps.  Importantly, it is not a reintroduction of terraces in top flight grounds and other areas of the ground, without barriers, will remain subject to the Government’s all-seater policy.

Early adopter criteria

Grounds selected to be early adopters of licensed standing had to meet certain criteria.  This has 16 points, covering issues such as:

  • The necessary infrastructure – such as seats with barriers/independent barriers – which must be in both home and away sections.
  • Fans must be able to sit or stand in the licensed areas – the seats cannot be locked in the ‘up’ or ‘down’ position.
  • There must also be one seat/space per person.
  • The licensed standing areas must not impact the viewing standards or other fans, including disabled fans.
  • There must be a Code of Conduct in place for fans in the licensed standing area.
  • Briefing and training must be in place for staff and stewards to ensure only relevant ticketholders are admitted to the licensed standing areas.
  • CCTV must be in place and offer full coverage of the licensed standing areas.
  • The ground must consult with its Safety Advisory Group about plans for the licensed standing areas.

Licensed standing areas – early adopter criteria (PDF)

Grounds considering submitting an application for licensed standing areas for the 2022/23 season (subject to the outcome of the early adopters) will need to consider the requirements of the early adopter criteria.  Guidance on the process for consideration of changes to spectator accommodation at SGSA licensed grounds is also available.

Any applications will be considered by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for final decision, based on advice and recommendations from the SGSA.

Supplementary Guidance 01: Safe standing in seated areas

This Supplementary Guidance 01: Safe Standing in Seated Areas (SG01) highlights the positive benefits of installing either independent barriers or seats incorporating barriers in order to mitigate the risks of progressive crowd collapse. It also summarises the main design and safety management issues associated with such installations.

It has been developed to support the introduction of licensed standing in seated areas at football grounds in England and Wales.  However, it is applicable to all sports grounds.

The guidance outlines a number of a key considerations, including:

  • Management and decision making considerations
  • Design factors
  • Safety management factors
  • P and S Factor indication questions for seated areas used for safe standing

Supplementary Guidance 01- Safe standing in seated areas (PDF)

Independent research on standing at football

In August 2019 the SGSA commissioned independent research on the nature and scale of standing at football, associated safety risks and how to mitigate them. The research took place over the 2019/20 season, before the start of the pandemic.

In June 2021, the SGSA released The Safe Management of Persistent Standing in Seated Areas final report (PDF).  The findings include:

  • Installing barriers or rails has had a positive impact on spectator safety in these areas, particularly in mitigating the risk of a progressive crowd collapse. The barriers almost completely eliminate the possibility of forwards or backwards movement during goal celebrations and the risk of a surge that could cause injury to those in front.
  • The installation of barriers or rails is perceived to have wider, positive effects on spectator behaviour. Police have not been deployed to areas with barriers operated by the case study clubs this season. Barriers also help to enhance spectators’ feelings of safety which increases their enjoyment of the game.
  • Areas where standing is tolerated are popular with spectators because of the atmosphere that is created. Wheelchair platforms have been successfully integrated into tolerated standing areas to provide a more inclusive experience.
  • Persistent standing amongst away spectators, particularly from high-risk opposition which varies by club, remains the biggest challenge. The combination of behaviours that contribute to an increased risk of falls forward are generally more prevalent in away areas, suggesting that these should be a priority when considering barriers as a mitigation measure.
  • Attempts to enforce the all-seater policy can be a source of conflict between spectators who persistently stand and those who wish to sit, as well as between spectators and stewards. The introduction of areas where standing is tolerated appears to have reduced the potential for conflict, and the associated risks.

The research follows on from the DCMS commissioned review into evidence relating to the all-seater policy. This identified a lack of evidence on standing at football grounds.

Background

All-seater grounds were introduced in the top two tiers of English football as a result of the Lord Taylor report into the Hillsborough disaster.

For a number of years, fans have campaigned for standing to be reintroduced.  Recently, engineering solutions have been successfully used to mitigate known safety risks of persistent standing in seated areas.

In its 2019 manifesto, the Government committed to introducing safe standing.  Since that time, the SGSA has worked with the DCMS, football governing bodies, clubs and other stakeholders to identify how this could be implemented safely.

On 22 September 2021, the Minister for Sport, Nigel Huddleston announced that the SGSA was able to invite applications for early adopters of licensed standing in seated areas.  The SGSA wrote to all grounds subject to the all-seater licence conditions, along with their respective local authorities.  Grounds/clubs had until 6 October 2021 to return the completed application form, outlining how they meet the criteria.