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Decades After a Disaster, English Soccer Fans May Stand Again

  • September 22, 2021

Teams in the top two divisions can apply now to start standing areas in January. But those areas will look very different from the open concrete slopes of old.

First, there will be seats there that fold up, so that fans can choose to sit if they like. No more than one fan for each seat will be admitted to the area, to avoid the tightly packed throngs that were often seen last century.

In addition, metal rails will be placed between each row. Fans can lean on them, and they will also help keep people in their own rows, preventing excited forward surges of humanity that could be dangerous.

Safe standing has been implemented elsewhere in the world, with success. German top-flight stadiums include thousands of spots for standers. Orlando City, L.A.F.C. and Minnesota are among the M.L.S. teams with safe standing areas. In Britain, Celtic of Glasgow began allowing a few thousand standees in the 2016-17 season.

“We are beyond delighted to finally claim a win for the F.S.A.’s Safe Standing campaign,” Kevin Miles, chief executive of the Football Supporters’ Association, a fan advocacy group, said in a statement on Wednesday. “Today’s announcement is the result of prolonged and sustained campaigning by football fans.”

Vinai Venkatesham, Arsenal’s chief executive, said Wednesday that the club would meet with fans next week to talk about adding standing areas. “It is something we are looking at,” he said. “We need to see what any implications will be, such as would it reduce the capacity. But we will listen to what our fans say and explore what can be done.”

Tariq Panja contributed reporting from London.

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