Manchester United can trial safe standing areas from January

Manchester United will be able to offer licensed standing areas from January 1 next year as part of a pilot programme in an attempt to introduce safe standing.

The Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) issues a statement on Wednesday.

Clubs must apply by October 6, and if approved will be able to operate a safe standing section from New Year’s Day until the end of the season.

Standing at stadia was outlawed by legislation passed in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool supporters.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said via SGSA: “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.”

SGSA chief executive Martyn Henderson 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.”

I recall having multiple conversations down the years with the people at MUST, who have long campaigned for safe standing at football stadiums in the UK, about the likelihood and those who might oppose the idea.

Thankfully, Manchester United have been open to the idea for a long time which definitely suggests they will be part of the trialling process at Old Trafford.

Now they need to find the time to plan out where to place these new barrier seats.