Premier League clubs to trial standing sections in stadiums

Designated standing sections would end the ban on standing in the top two divisions of English football that has been in place for more than 25 years.

The licensed standing areas must also not impact the viewing standards or other fans, including disabled fans, among other measures. (Representative Image)

Supporters will be allowed to stand in selected English Premier League and Championship grounds from next year as part of a pilot programme, UK's Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) said on Wednesday.

Safe standing is set to be trialled from January 1 after the UK government instructed the SGSA to take the first steps in creating licensed standing areas at grounds.

Clubs will have until Oct. 6 to submit an application to become an "early adopter".

The introduction of designated standing areas would mean an end to the ban on standing in the top two divisions of English football that has been in place for more than 25 years.

Such spaces were outlawed by legislation following the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

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"We have been clear that we will work with fans and clubs towards introducing safe standing at football grounds providing there was evidence that installing seating with barriers would have a positive impact on crowd safety," said Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston.

"With independent research now complete, and capacity crowds back at grounds across the country, now is the right time to make progress."

"I look forward to hearing from clubs who wish to be part of our early adopters programme."

Clubs would have to meet certain criteria to get approval, including having "the necessary infrastructure" in both home and away areas of their stadium, and allowing fans to sit or stand in the standing areas with the seats not locked in the "up" or "down" position.

The licensed standing areas must also not impact the viewing standards or other fans, including disabled fans, among other measures.

Premier League clubs Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers have had rail seating installed at their grounds, allowing them the flexibility to have standing or seated fans in certain areas.

Campaigners have long called for a return to safe standing areas and the move has been welcomed by the Football Supporters' Association (FSA).

"There is a tradition of fans standing at games as it increases choice, improves atmospheres and ensures supporter safety when hosted in properly managed and licensed standing areas," the organisation said in a statement.

Jon Darch of the Safe Standing Roadshow said it was a step in the right direction.

"Hopefully, it will lead in due course to all clubs being able to offer supporters the choice of watching matches sitting down or standing up," he told Reuters.

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