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14 Feb 2020
Manchester United planning to install 'safe-standing' section at Old Trafford
By Tom Walker
Manchester United planning to install 'safe-standing' section at Old Trafford
Rail seating is used to provide standing areas in other leagues around Europe – including in Scotland, where Celtic has created one for their fans
Photo: Celtic FC
Premier League giants Manchester United have tabled plans to create a safe-standing area at its Old Trafford stadium.

The club has made an application to install rail seating for up to 1,500 supporters in a section of the stadium where supporters persistently stand anyway – claiming that the move would improve fan safety.

The plans were discussed at a United fans’ forum on 31 January.

"A formal proposal was made to the local Safety Advisory Group (SAG) in December 2019 to request a trial in a small section of the stadium (up to 1,500 seats in the north-east quadrant)," the minutes from the fans' forum read.

"Our belief is that the introduction of rail seating will enhance spectator safety in areas of the stadium where – as with other clubs – we have seen examples of persistent standing.

"The SAG committee is reviewing the request. This is not an automatic approval process. We will discuss the proposal in detail with the relevant authorities and will work through their compliance and review processes."

All-seater stadiums have been mandatory in the top two tiers of English football since 1994, following recommendations on stadium safety made in the Taylor Report in the wake of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

There has, however, been increasing support for the return of "safe standing" areas in top-flight stadiums using "rail seats" – a system which allows seats to be locked in an upright position, creating a standing area.

The UK government turned down plans for safe standing in 2018, but that hasn't deterred clubs – and especially fans' organisations – lobbying for the return of standing areas.

As well as fans, clubs, stadium operators and even safety authorities have voiced views that there could be a place for properly-designed, purpose-built ‘safe standing’ areas within modern football stadiums.

An example of how rail seating works can be found in the Scottish Premiership, where Celtic FC became the first club in the UK to install rail seating at an all-seater stadium.

In 2016, the club installed nearly 3,000 rail seats – from UK supplier Ferco – at its Celtic Park home. As well as eradicating the issue of persistent standing, the safe standing zone has been credited with improving the stadium’s atmosphere.

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