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Safe standing: Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Tottenham and Cardiff to take part in trial from January 1 2022

Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea and Cardiff to take part in a safe standing trial, organised by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, until the end of the season; all-seater stadiums have been compulsory in the top two tiers since the start of the 1994-95 season

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Image: A number of Premier League clubs, including Manchester United, have installed rail seating which can accommodate safe standing

Five Premier League and Championship clubs will take part in a safe standing trial from January 1 next year, the UK sports minister Nigel Huddleston has announced.

Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Chelsea and Cardiff are the clubs whose applications to operate licensed safe standing areas have been approved.

The trial, organised by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA), marks the end of a blanket ban on standing in the top two tiers of English football which has been in place since 1994.

"I'm pleased to approve these five clubs as early adopters of licensed safe standing areas for the second half of the season," Huddleston said.

"The time is now right to properly trial safe standing in the Premier League and EFL Championship ahead of a decision on a widespread roll-out.

"Safety is absolutely paramount and the SGSA is working hand-in-glove with the clubs on this.

"Fans deserve different options on how they can enjoy a live match and I will be watching the progress of these trials with interest."

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The pilot programme will be monitored by the independent firm CFE Research, and its findings will be provided to the government for it to make a decision on a possible wider roll-out of safe standing for the 2022/23 season.

Liverpool are already running their own trial with two areas of rail seating at Anfield.

The Merseyside club's current trial is only designed to allow safe standing at particular moments of excitement in a game, rather than throughout.

The Reds will then review their trial at the end of the season.

Standing areas in what is now the Premier League and Championship were outlawed by legislation passed in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, which led to the deaths of 97 Liverpool fans.

The introduction of the standing areas follows a commitment by the government in its 2019 General Election manifesto, and it is a move which has cross-party support.

However, the UK's football policing lead, Chief Constable Mark Roberts of Cheshire Police, has criticised what he sees as a "headlong rush" to reintroduce standing areas.

He told The Times last week: "My concern is that you get over-migration into the area because it is attractive to some supporters and it is easier when they are stood up.

"You are potentially going to get issues of overcrowding. You will potentially get a more male-dominated crowd, fewer children and older people. That's going to drive more exclusionary behaviour in terms of the language and behaviour."

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