Licensed standing in seated areas

Licensed standing at football grounds subject to the Government’s all-seater policy is now permitted, following an announcement by the Sports Minister, Nigel Huddleston.

The roll out of licensed standing follows a successful trial at five early adopter grounds – Cardiff City FC, Chelsea FC, Manchester City FC, Manchester United FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC – between 1 January and 1 June 2022.  The trial was independently evaluated by CFE Research, with the final evaluation report provided to Government to inform its decision to change policy.

The change of policy means that SGSA will be able to make a decision on whether to allow licensed standing areas, rather than needing Ministerial approval.

The SGSA welcomes the controlled return of standing for the modern era.  This is an historic and exciting decision for football and, most importantly, fans. Research, outlined below, has shown that fans will be safer and have an improved experience by having the choice of whether to sit or stand safely.

We have taken a deliberately cautious approach in this change of policy. It is not a return to the days of old, with huge standing terraces. Rather, this is a modern approach, using new engineering solutions with the focus on improving fan safety and offering choice.

Supplementary Guidance 01: Safe Standing in Seated Areas

The 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.

The second edition of the guidance was published in July 2022.

SG01- Safe standing in seated areas – July 2022 (PDF)

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

Licensed standing criteria

Grounds interested in offering licensed standing must meet a set of criteria.

Licensed standing criteria – October 2022 (PDF)

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.

To be clear, standing will only be permitted in those areas with the appropriate infrastructure in place. Other areas of a ground, without barriers, will remain subject to the Government’s all-seater policy.

Grounds will not be able to offer licensed standing until they are in receipt of the appropriate SGSA licence.

Football grounds interested in offering licensed standing should speak to their local SGSA Inspector about the application process.  An overview of the application process is available in the following document: Licensed standing application flow chart (PDF)

Research and 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.  It applies to all clubs who have been in the Premier League or Championship for at least three seasons (in total, not concurrently) since 1994/95.  There are 63 grounds, plus Wembley and Principality Stadium, subject to Government’s all-seater policy (including those now offering licensed standing).

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, to take effect from 1 January 2022.

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.  It was conducted independently by CFE Research.  The final report – The Safe Management of Persistent Standing in Seated Areas final report (PDF) – found that installing barriers or rails 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 research followed 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.

 What new legislation is underpinning wider implementation of licensed standing?

A new statutory instrument was laid on 4 July – SI 2022/728 – revoking all existing all seater orders (23 in total) and replacing them with a single direction from the Secretary of State to SGSA imposing new requirements as respects the seating of spectators at designated football matches. Essentially these new requirements are that only seated accommodation is to be provided for spectators at a designated football match, except in areas of the premises where there are seats incorporating a barrier or seats with an independent barrier. And, spectators are only to be admitted to watch a designated football match from seated accommodation, except where they are admitted to watch the designated football match from areas of the premises where there are seats incorporating a barrier or seats with an independent barrier.

In accordance with Section 10 of the Football Spectators Act 1989 Act, SGSA remains responsible for issuing and ensuring compliance with licences to admit spectators to sports grounds to watch designated football matches, on such terms and conditions as it considers appropriate. It follows, that SGSA will be able to continue to specify the conditions and criteria we deem necessary as managed through our internal licensing process and therefore only issue a licence permitting standing areas if a SGSA licensed ground meet the requirements outlined in SG01 and the licensed standing criteria. Similarly, SGSA can use existing Section 10 licensing powers and enforcement approach to revoke such permissions in circumstances where a SGSA licensed ground falls out of compliance with SG01 good practice and/or any of the licensed standing criteria.