Several weeks ago, the UK government announced that they were implementing a trial of “safe standing” in the United Kingdom, with clubs invited to apply for a license to feature it at matches. Tottenham Hotspur was one of the clubs that applied. Today, the club announced that, as expected, it has been granted a license for sections of the south stand and away stands to be converted for safe standing, beginning in January 2022. This is the first time that standing at stadiums has been allowed in nearly 30 years
There was a time when the majority of fans in attendance at football matches in the UK stood for the whole of the match. Vast sections of the stadiums were designed as literal terraces with no seats, which allowed for more and more fans to be crammed into “pens” since standing takes up less room than seating.
That changed in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, a stadium crush during an FA Cup final between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool that claimed the lives of 96 attendees. Football stadiums in the UK were mandated by law to be converted to all-seater facilities and discouraged from standing during matches, a much safer situation but which also dramatically reduced attendance. Since then, however, technology has been developed that allows for standing-only sections in stadiums that are significantly safer and reduce the possibility of crushes during matches, including rails in each row that discourage people moving forward. This is “safe standing” and what is being implemented next year.
Tottenham wisely saw this coming and designed its new stadium with technology that allowed for safe standing should the law eventually be changed. Spurs will now be one of the first clubs to trial this new tech in actual football matches, along with Cardiff City, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United.
According to Spurs’ release, all clubs participating in the trial must adhere to a strict series of regulations:
Clubs had to meet a number of criteria in order to receive approval to have licensed standing areas, including:
• The necessary infrastructure being in place before 1 January, 2022 – such as seats with barriers/independent barriers – which must be in both home and away sections.
• The seats cannot be locked in the ‘up’ or ‘down’ position, allowing fans the option of being able to sit (for example, during breaks in play).
• 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 ticket holders 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.
Based on Spurs’ current schedule, the first opportunity to trial safe standing at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium would be the home North London Derby on January 16. Tottenham’s first match in 2022 is an away match at Watford, which is not participating in the trial.