Safe standing across English football moves a crucial step closer | Football

Safe standing across English football has come a step closer after a report found it had “a positive impact on spectator safety”.

The findings, made by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) in an interim report, have been welcomed by government. They could herald the return of standing to the top two divisions in England for the first time since the implementation of the Taylor report, should they be borne out in the final version of the report due this summer.

The SGSA has this season studied behaviour at Celtic Park and Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion as well as at English clubs Shrewsbury Town, Wycombe Wanderers and Oxford United which are trialling the technology. Their key observation in the interim report is that safe standing “has had a positive impact on spectator safety, particularly in mitigating the risk of crowd collapse.”

The SGSA also observe that safe standing has not caused tension between supporters or between supporters and stewards. “There has been very little conflict as a result of standing,” it said.

While the findings are still provisional, they have met with approval from the government Every political party endorsed the idea of safe standing in their manifestos during last year’s election and the sports minister Nigel Adams reinforced that view in light of the report.

“I welcome the latest findings from the Sports Grounds Safety Authority’s research. As we made clear in our election manifesto, we will work with fans and clubs towards introducing safe standing at football grounds.

“However it is imperative that football remains as safe as it has become over the past 25 years. Robust evidence that this change will provide equivalent or improved safety for supporters, will be absolutely paramount to this process.

“There is more work that needs to be done. The SGSA is continuing to gather evidence over the course of this season, and I have asked them to work with the football authorities to consider next steps as we work with clubs and fans to introduce safe standing.”

Standing in the top two flights of English football has been banned since the implementation of the Taylor report which followed the Hillsborough tragedy of 1989. Since 1994 all clubs in the Premier League and Championship have been obliged to have all-seater stadia.

Standing is possible in Leagues One and Two, where traditional terracing still remains at many grounds. The trials observed by the SGSA involve one particular type of standing arrangement, rail seating, which involve seats that can be folded away to allow standing and form a barrier at each level of the ground.

The EFL commented on the SGSA report stating: “The EFL is encouraged by the direction of travel being taken on what remains an important issue for the League and its membership. Our position remains consistent in that EFL Clubs, across all three divisions, should be able to provide supporters with the matchday experience they want in accordance with the relevant safety requirements, whether it is sitting or standing in stadiums.”

The SGSA’s research will now continue until the end of the season. Should the final report prove positive, it could pave the way to the return of safe standing by the 2021-22 season.

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