Government hopes to conduct safe standing pilots this season

The Government is hoping to conduct safe standing pilots this season, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston has said.

The introduction of designated safe standing areas would mean an end to the blanket ban on standing in the top two divisions of English football which has been in place for over 25 years.

The Conservative Government promised to look at the issue of safe standing in its manifesto for the 2019 General Election, and Labour and the Liberal Democrats also pledged to update the legislation, so are likely to be sympathetic to, and supportive of, any planned trials.

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Huddleston said in a tweet on Sunday evening: “We are working closely with the Sports Ground Safety Authority to see if we can introduce a number of safe standing pilots this season before we consider a widespread rollout.

“Safety of fans will be absolutely paramount. More detail will come in due course.”

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.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea installed rail seating over the summer, but there is no guarantee those clubs would be part of any initial pilot.

The Football Supporters’ Association has been a crucial lobbying force on the subject, via its ‘Stand Up For Choice’ campaign.

It believes clubs should consult with supporters on the most appropriate way to introduce standing areas.