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UK football to trial safe standing, with Tottenham expected to be front of line

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was built with two sections that can be converted to accommodate safe standing.

Tottenham Hotspur v Watford - Premier League Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

After decades of waiting, arguing, and protesting, football in the United Kingdom is going to give safe standing a chance in football stadiums, and Tottenham Hotspur is expected to be a part of that process.

The Football Supporters Association (FSA) announced this morning that clubs across the UK have been invited to apply for the opportunity to trial safe standing beginning in January, 2022. Today’s decision is the culmination of more than 30 years of effort and persuasion by proponents of safe standing since the UK government mandated all-seater stadiums in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

The Football Supporters’ Association (FSA) was contacted last night by the Sports Ground Safety Association (SGSA), who told us that the option for football clubs to offer licensed standing at all levels of the game in England and Wales has at last been passed into official Government policy.

The SGSA has now announced steps to invite Premier League and Championship clubs to apply to offer standing areas from 1st January 2022, bringing to an end an FSA-led Safe Standing campaign that has lasted more than three decades.

No decisions have yet been made in which clubs will be participating in the safe standing trial, but it is expected that clubs that have stadiums that allow for it, such as Tottenham Hotspur, will apply. When Spurs constructed their new stadium, they purposefully included two sections with “rail seating” that could be converted into safe standing areas — a 6000-seat section in the large South Stand, and a further section of about 1500 seats in the away section for visiting fans.

Safe standing is a custom built system for football supporters to safely stand within stadiums for the duration of the match and to avoid the unregulated and often overcrowded “standing pens” that were common in football stadiums prior to the 1990s. Safe standing rows feature guard rails in front of supporters that are designed to prevent overcrowding in standing areas and potential “crushes” like the one that caused the deaths of 96 Liverpool supporters at Hillsborough. Presently, football fans are encouraged to remain seated during matches in all-seater stadiums, a directive that is regularly ignored.

The inclusion of ready-made safe standing areas in modern stadiums will allow for football fans who wish to stand and sing for the duration of the match to do so without inconveniencing those in seated areas of the stadiums who may not want that, and allow them to still be able to view the match while seated.

The news of a safe standing trial has been a welcome one for many football supporters. More clarity on which clubs will be participating in the trial next year will come in due course.