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Current position

From August 1994, under the Football Spectators Act 1989 (as amended), clubs in the English Premier League and Championship have been required to provide all-seated accommodation. This followed Lord Justice Taylor’s report into the Hillsborough disaster of April 1989.

The 1989 Act applies to England and Wales.

Calls for change

The Football Supporters’ Association (formed in 2019 when the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) and Supporters Direct merged) is campaigning for the introduction of safe standing areas.

In 2018, the English Football League and FSF ran a “Stand Up For Choice” survey. The majority (94%) of respondents believed they should be able to choose whether to sit or stand at EFL matches.

A 2018 petition called for safe standing at Premiership and Championship grounds and was signed by over 112,000 people.

In June 2018, during a debate on the safe standing petition, the then Sports Minister, Tracey Crouch, acknowledged the increasing support for a change to the current position. She announced that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) was commissioning an external evidence review to inform any decision on changes to the all-seater requirement. The review was undertaken by CFE Research between November 2018 and January 2019.

Evidence review published (October 2019)

An October 2019 report set out the findings of the review. According to the report, there was a lack of “robust evidence” on whether a change to current policy would ensure “equivalent or improved spectator safety”. There was therefore “significant scope” for further research to build the evidence base.

What now?

The SGSA has commissioned independent research on the nature and scale of standing at football, the associated safety risks and how to mitigate them. The research is taking place through the 2019/20 season. “Emerging findings” were published on 7 February 2020. These found that, among other things:

…installing barriers (or safety bars) has had a positive impact on spectator safety, particularly in mitigating the risk of crowd collapse. Celebrations are more orderly with limited opportunity for forward or backwards movement compared to observations in seated areas. Further, safety staff feel that the introduction of barriers has not encouraged standing where supporters previously sat…

The SGA’s final report will be published in summer 2020.

The Conservative Party Manifesto for the 2019 General Election included a commitment to “work with fans and clubs towards introducing safe standing”.

On 28 January 2020, the Sports Minister, Nigel Adams, said that the Government was “very keen” to deliver the Manifesto commitment but would have to be “guided by the [SGSA] evidence and be mindful of everyone; the fans, the Hillsborough families”.


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