Manchester United have been granted permission to install 1,500 safe-standing seats for use in a trial when Old Trafford is opened again to supporters. The use of barrier seating has been approved following a change in regulations and a feasibility study carried out by the club. Fans are not expected to be permitted to attend matches for at least a number of months with English football indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Even when matches do return, they will likely take place behind closed doors for the forseeable future.
However, United insist work can be carried out on the project whilst respecting social distancing guidelines to ensure it is ready for when fans can return.
“It may seem strange to talk about stadium plans at this time, but football and our fans will return when it is safe, and our preparations for that must continue in the background,” said United’s managing director Richard Arnold.
“This announcement is the latest step in what has been a long journey with our fans.
“We have listened to their feedback, in particular, the representations made by MUST (Manchester United Supporters’ Trust), and worked with Trafford Council to develop and approve this proposal.”
Arnold added that the barrier seats can enhance spectator safety in areas of the ground where fans persistently stand anyway and that the trial could be extended to other areas of the stadium.
“We will now move on to develop the installation, compliance and licensing plan for the trial, with a view to having the new seats installed for when we can welcome our supporters back to Old Trafford,” said Arnold.
All-seater stadiums have been mandatory in the top two tiers of English football since 1994/95, following recommendations on stadium safety made in the Taylor Report, which was commissioned after 96 people died in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.
But there has been a renewed push in recent years for safe standing to be brought into the top levels of English football with United set to follow fellow Premier League clubs Tottenham and Wolves in installing rail seating.