Manchester City and Spurs to be first Premier League clubs to bring back standing

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Manchester City and Spurs to be first Premier League clubs to bring back standing - PA
Manchester City and Spurs to be first Premier League clubs to bring back standing - PA

Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur are set to be the first clubs to bring back standing after the Government finally approved a pilot of safe standing in England and Wales.

City and Spurs both confirmed they would apply to be part of a long-awaited trial of so-called rail seating next year, with Telegraph Sport told they were likely to be the only clubs who currently meet strict criteria when it comes to using them during league matches.

Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, West Ham, Wolves, Cardiff City and Bristol City – who have adapted parts of their grounds to include barriers that prevent spectators from falling – may need to make further alterations after it was announced the “early adopter” programme would be limited to those who could accommodate home and away standing sections.

United were last night assessing whether they would be able to do so, with Richard Arnold, their managing director, declaring them “big supporters” of safe standing.

Arsenal are the only member of the so-called ‘Big Six’ not to have adapted their ground but chief executive Vinai Venkatesham said they would meet fans next week for talks about doing so following news of the pilot.

The pilot represents the first time in more than 25 years that standing will be allowed in Premier League and Championship stadia, after it was banned in the wake of the Hillsborough Disaster.

The trial will be overseen by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA), which on Wednesday gave clubs just two weeks, until October 6, to submit an application to be an early adopter.

Apart from City and Spurs, other teams to have installed rail seating in anticipation of the pilot may either need to install separate away sections or move their away ends.

Alternatively, some clubs, such as Chelsea, could qualify for FA Cup and Carabao Cup ties, in which away supporters are given a larger allocation of tickets.

The ban on standing at matches has proven all but unenforceable, with thousands of fans regularly flouting it in a way that is arguably more unsafe than allowing them to stay on their feet in a more controlled manner.

A campaign has been running for years for England and Wales to adopt rail seating, which has been in operation in Germany for years and was adopted by Celtic in 2016.

The Government’s last general election manifesto in 2019 promised to work towards the introduction of safe-standing areas and, after the coronavirus crisis prevented it doing so last season, it has delivered on that pledge.

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said: “We have been clear that we will work with fans and clubs towards introducing safe standing at football grounds providing there was evidence that installing seating with barriers would have a positive impact on crowd safety.

“With independent research now complete, and capacity crowds back at grounds across the country, now is the right time to make progress. I look forward to hearing from clubs who wish to be part of our early adopters programme during the second half of this season.”

Martyn Henderson, chief executive of the SGSA, said: “The focus of the SGSA is the safety and enjoyment of all fans at sports grounds. We know many fans want the choice to stand and, with the advent of new engineering solutions, our research has shown how this can be managed safely.

“Today’s announcement will enable us to properly test and evaluate licensed standing areas before the Government decides its next steps.”

Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Association and safe standing campaigner, said: “We are beyond delighted to finally claim a win for the FSA’s Safe Standing campaign after extra time, penalties and more than a few replays and postponements.

“Too many people to mention have worked tirelessly for so long to bring about today’s news. Those people know who they are and we look forward to having a well-deserved beer or two over the next few weeks and months. Who knows, we may even take in a match from a standing area.”

Jon Darch, who runs the Safe Standing Roadshow, said: “It’s a great next step, which will hopefully lead to all clubs soon being allowed to give supporters a choice of watching the game sitting down or standing up.”

The EFL said it had "campaigned over many years for standing legislation to be updated to give all supporters a choice on how they watch live games, so the announcement from the SGSA and Government represents another step along the way to seeing standing permitted across our competition".

“While we welcome this long overdue progress on standing there do remain further challenges in relation to the application of the all-seater policy that still need to be addressed and we will continue to work with Government to achieve an outcome that can be welcomed by all clubs,” a statement added.

Premier League clubs opposed to Fifa World Cup plot

By Tom Morgan

Gianni Infantino - AFP
Gianni Infantino - AFP

Premier League clubs are unanimously opposed to Fifa proposals for a World Cup every two years.

Concerns over player burnout were expressed as club executives discussed whether they could derail the world governing body’s plan.

Although Mark Bullingham, the Football Association chief executive, addressed the clubs via video-call, the governing body has stopped short of criticising Fifa.

Opposition to a biennial World Cup was also voiced by Uefa, which launched fresh criticism on Wednesday over Fifa’s “methodology”.

“Uefa is disappointed with the methodology adopted, which has so far led to radical reform projects being communicated and openly promoted before having been given, together with other stakeholders, the chance to participate in any consultation meeting,” a statement said.

Uefa added that it had “not yet received a reply from Fifa” over a request for a meeting about the proposals.

At the Premier League meeting in London, the green light was given to pursue a money-spinning television-rights deal with the United States.

With a host of major broadcasters, including Disney, thought to be lining up offers, the clubs are hopeful the next round of rights could be worth more than £1 billion - double that of the current six-year deal with NBC.

Anger over the World Cup plan comes as clubs already face the disruption of next year’s Qatar tournament falling in the middle of the season. Premier League executives have been told the FA Cup final will take place in June, and the league season will start earlier than ever.

Clubs have dropped plans to discuss a revised nine-point “owners’ charter” to guarantee no future breakaway plots. A final draft of the document was sent to the 20 shareholders last week after months of debate around safeguarding the competition following two previous rebellions - the European Super League and Project Big Picture. There remains some opposition to the final draft but sources cited time constraints for the document not being raised.