(Reuters) – UEFA is launching a safe standing observer programme in its competitions for matches in England, Germany and France this season with a view of reintroducing it on a permanent basis, Europe’s soccer governing body said on Wednesday.
While safe standing areas are becoming the norm at the domestic level, UEFA’s current regulations do not permit it in its competitions after a ban following the 1985 Heysel Stadium disaster.
The programme has been approved by the Executive Committee but the body said it would be limited to just the top five ranked associations in the UEFA rankings where standing is already authorised and implemented at the domestic level.
Although Spain and Italy are in the top five, UEFA said it would be limited only to England, Germany and France as they were compliant with national and local legislation.
“The programme will be carried out during the group stage and knockout phases up to and including the semi-finals of the 2022-23 UEFA men’s club competitions. The finals are excluded,” UEFA said in a statement.
“At the end of the 2022-23 season, on the basis of the reports submitted by the mandated experts, the UEFA administration will assess the findings of the programme and submit the results to the UEFA Executive Committee.”
The Committee will then decide on any potential continuation or possible extension of the programme.
In England, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Chelsea received approval to have licensed safe standing in seated areas from Jan. 1 this year, with more British clubs set to adopt safe standing areas next season.
Grounds in England’s top divisions were converted to all-seater stadiums nearly 30 years ago after Liverpool supporters were crushed in overcrowded and fenced-in areas at the Hillsborough Stadium in 1989, which led to 97 deaths.
Thirty-nine people, mainly Italians, died at Heysel Stadium in Brussels when a wall collapsed after Liverpool fans charged Juventus supporters before the 1985 European Cup final, which Juve won 1-0.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge)