Nigel Huddleston – 2021 Statement on Standing in Football Stadiums

The statement made by Nigel Huddleston, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, in the House of Commons on 8 November 2021.

On 22 September, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the Sports Grounds Safety Authority announced an early adopters programme for licensed standing in seated areas at football stadia. The programme will be implemented in the second half of this football season between 1 January 2022 and 31 July 2022. I can confirm today that the football clubs that will act as early adopters are Cardiff City, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.

The early adopters programme represents a significant step towards fulfilling the Government’s manifesto commitment to work with fans and clubs towards introducing licensed standing in seated areas at football grounds. It will enable the Government to evaluate how successful licensed standing areas could be as a strategy to manage persistent standing across five different football grounds with varying challenges, before it considers making any substantive policy changes or wider implementation. It will be subject to a formal independent evaluation.

I have today laid a statutory instrument which directs the SGSA to amend the “all-seater condition”, which requires stadia to provide all-seated accommodation, in any licence to admit spectators issued to these five football clubs under the Football Spectators Act 1989 by the SGSA. This will allow the five specified clubs to admit spectators to their home grounds to watch designated football matches from a standing position, provided certain conditions are satisfied. This means doing so in areas of the ground where the seating accommodation has been adapted so there are seats incorporating a barrier or seats with an independent barrier. The SGSA has produced supplementary guidance (SG01) providing further information about the standards-requirements which must be met. This guidance is available online. These modern—non-terraced—stands or areas with seats therefore still allocate one person to one seat.

The selection of these clubs followed an expression of interest process which was conducted by the SGSA between 22 September and 6 October 2021. The SGSA invited applications from football clubs in the top two tiers of professional football in England and Wales currently subject to the all-seater policy to become early adopters of licensed standing in seated areas. The SGSA analysed the applications against the published early adopter criteria, which are available online, before providing written recommendations to DCMS. This advice was carefully considered before receiving final ministerial approval.

In addition, prior to their publication, the early adopter criteria and licence conditions for standing in seated areas were subject to a six-week consultation—28 July-6 September 2021—with key stakeholders. This included safety committee members—the Premier League, English Football League, Football Association, UK Football Policing Unit, Football Supporters’ Association, Football Safety Officers’ Association, Safety Advisory Group Regional Chairs Lead and the National Counter-Terrorism Security Office—local authorities, football governing bodies and licensed football clubs. DCMS worked closely with the SGSA to ensure that consultation responses were used to inform the final criteria clubs were required to meet to become early adopters, which are available online.

The Government’s approach is driven by safety considerations. Given the wider context and background to the current all-seater policy, it is right that we carefully consider any wider change in policy, looking at all the evidence and assessing the potential safety impacts of any change. The Government are not complacent about spectator safety, nor are we complacent about the safety policies that have served spectators well for many years. We will continue to work closely with the SGSA, football clubs, the football governing bodies and local authorities to ensure that spectator safety remains paramount.