Fans of Liverpool and Chelsea will become the first supporters to legally stand at a top-flight football match for 28 years on Sunday when a trial of ‘safe standing’ is introduced at Stamford Bridge.
Sections of the Matthew Harding Stand lower tier and the Shed End upper and lower tiers will include new facilities whereby fans can stand in a single traceable space, which will be the same size as a seat.
Terraces were outlawed in the top two tiers of English football in 1994 in the wake of recommendations that followed the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy, where 97 Liverpool fans were killed.
Fans have subsequently campaigned for models of ‘safe standing’ – as has been long implemented in Germany’s Bundesliga – which allow supporters the choice between sitting or standing in a controlled way.
In reality, large numbers of fans have long stood during Premier League matches in supposedly seated areas and so it is also hoped that safe standing will ensure that those fans who wish to sit, or cannot stand, no longer have their view impeded.
The Government has agreed to a pilot scheme and five clubs – Cardiff City, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – will have licensed ‘safe standing’ in designated seated areas for home and away fans.
The clubs must adhere to certain conditions including enhanced use of CCTV, improved steward training, and licensed safe standing areas which are limited to ‘one person, one space.’
Barriers will be in place behind and in front of every individual. “This is a huge step forward,” said Kevin Miles, the chief executive of the Football Supporters Association. “It’s great to see people now being offered the choice on whether to sit or stand at a football match. I will feel more secure having that safety rail in front of me there. I think that will make a difference to the confidence of fans in the stands about their own safety.”
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said that safety would be “absolutely paramount” and that the information from the trial would inform decisions on a potential widespread roll-out.