Green light for safe standing trials

22nd September, 2021. What a momentous day for the safe standing campaign! The day on which the Westminster government finally gave the green light for safe standing trials in the Premier League and EFL.

It's been a very long journey. From the days of Phil Gatenby and his 'Standing Areas For Eastlands' campaign as his beloved Man City prepared to leave Maine Road, which then evolved into the national SAFE standing campaign that he led for a while, all the way through to the present day with people like Malcolm Clarke, Kev Miles, Pete Daykin, Martin O'Hara and Michael Brunskill at the FSA playing leading roles in finally realising the campaign's objectives. The 'Roadshow' hopefully helped a little along the way too.

The roadshow attracting media attention at a 2011 public meeting in Liverpool, as stadium safety expert Steve Frosdick explains the benefits of rail seats

It will now be interesting to see how things unfold. Rolling out safe standing won't be without its challenges. Some quite strict criteria have been laid down by the Sports Ground Safety Authority. Any club offering safe standing for home fans, for instance, must also provide the same option for visiting supporters (as well as offering them seats). The requirements in terms of space are also much stricter for safe standing than where a club has simply installed 'seats incorporating rails' or 'independent barriers' behind existing seats to enhance safety in what nevertheless has up to now remained an area of seated accommodation.

The unimpeded ability to step back to allow others to pass is a key new requirement

Going forward, each standing spectator must have at least 0.2 square metres of space (0.25sqm in new builds) and, in addition, the free, unobstructed space along the row must be deep enough that fans can stand slightly forward or backward of each other, so that they're not shoulder-to-shoulder, as the latter situation would result in several fans ending up stood in the gangways, which is a major stadium safety no-no. If the space isn't deep enough for this, the new guidelines for safe standing say that capacity must be cut in order to prevent such encroachment.

This 'white paper' explains the issue, with illustrations and calculations showing how much the depth of the seats installed, or the combined depth of existing seats and newly fitted barriers, can have an impact on capacity.

While the paper is 'product-agnostic', I wrote it, of course, not only as a safe standing campaigner of 16+ years' 'standing', but also in my more recently acquired role as a part-time agent for Ferco Seating. When I approached them way back in 2010 to help me create the Safe Standing Roadshow, they kindly agreed, and subsequently built the unit for me.

The Roadshow under construction in Ferco's workshop in early 2011

Ever since then, they've been great supporters of the campaign. Nevertheless, my paper shows that even one of their rail seat models won't be compatible with safe standing under the new rules: it simply takes up too much space.

So, in order to avoid a loss of capacity, it's not whose 'seats incorporating barriers' a club fits that's all-important, it's that the ones they fit are compact enough to provide the requisite space. Many are not.

Jon Darch, September 2021