Safe standing at football: Manchester United and Manchester City to take part in standing area trials

Manchester United and Manchester City are two of the five clubs taking part in the safe standing trial from January 2022.

Old Trafford will be on the stadiums in the safe standing trial Credit: Getty Images

Five clubs will take part in a safe standing trial from January 1 next year, the Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston has announced.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea and Cardiff are the clubs whose applications to operate licensed safe standing areas have been approved.

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The trial marks the end of a blanket ban on standing in the top two tiers of English football which has been in place for more than 25 years.

Manchester City’s supporters at Old Trafford Credit: Getty Images

Huddleston said: “I’m pleased to approve these five clubs as early adopters of licensed safe standing areas for the second half of the season.

“The time is now right to properly trial safe standing in the Premier League and EFL Championship ahead of a decision on a widespread roll-out.

“Safety is absolutely paramount and the SGSA (Sports Grounds Safety Authority) is working hand-in-glove with the clubs on this.

“Fans deserve different options on how they can enjoy a live match and I will be watching the progress of these trials with interest.”

How will the pilot work and what has the reaction been?

The pilot will be monitored by the independent firm CFE Research, and its findings will be provided to the Government for it to make a decision on a possible wider roll-out of safe standing for next season.

Manchester United fans Credit: Getty Images

It is understood Liverpool did not apply to take part in the pilot, because they are already running their own trial with two areas of rail seating at Anfield.

The Merseyside club’s current trial is only designed to allow safe standing at particular moments of excitement in a game, rather than throughout.

The Reds will then review their trial at the end of the season.

Standing areas in what is now the Premier League and Championship were outlawed by legislation passed in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans.

Man City fans Credit: Getty Images

The introduction of the standing areas follows a commitment by the Government in its 2019 General Election manifesto, and it is a move which has cross-party support.

However, the UK’s football policing lead, Chief Constable Mark Roberts of Cheshire Police, has criticised what he sees as a “headlong rush” to reintroduce standing areas.

He told The Times last week: “My concern is that you get over-migration into the area because it is attractive to some supporters and it is easier when they are stood up.

“You are potentially going to get issues of overcrowding. You will potentially get a more male-dominated crowd, fewer children and older people. That’s going to drive more exclusionary behaviour in terms of the language and behaviour.”

A young fan outside Old Trafford ahead of the fixture with City Credit: Getty Images

A safe standing campaigner, Jon Darch, has also warned that “red tape” around the all-seater policy which requires an unlocked seat for every supporter creates a safety risk.

He says the situation in England will be different from Europe or Scotland, where rail seats are tipped up and locked out of the way to leave each row completely free of any obstruction.

“Due to Westminster red tape, conditions for standing fans will be unduly cramped and access in an emergency for paramedics will be impeded,” he wrote.

The SGSA has been asked to respond to Darch’s comments.