The pandemic has kept football fans away from the stadiums, and now that some of the coronavirus restrictions to people attending Premier League matches has been lifted, many fans may still stay away.
But Manchester United is hoping to tackle that with some1,500 barrier seats that it will be installing early next year as it gets ready to trial “safe standing” at Old Trafford.
Some Premier League fans can attend finally some matches this weekend with the easing of some of the restrictions.
But ManU is moving ahead with its plans to create a section of seating that allows fans to stand against barriers.
Standing areas was previously banned as a part of recommendations on stadium safety after the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. All-seater venues have been mandatory in the top tiers of English football since the 1994/95 season.
But recently there has been a renewed push for safe standing areas, with United following fellow Premier League clubs Tottenham and Wolves by installing barrier seating at their ground.
United’s “belief is that the introduction of barrier seats will enhance spectator safety in areas of the stadium where — as with other clubs — we have seen examples of persistent standing” said ManU Managing Director Richard Arnold back in April.
Local government officials granted approval for the club to trial 1,500 barrier seats earlier this year for installation to start in early 2021.
“We now have confirmation from the SGSA (Sports Grounds Safety Authority) that we can make arrangements to install circa 1,500 seats with barriers in the J Stand area, as part of the proposed trial,” said Jim Liggett, operations director at United, in a fans’ forum:
“Due to the ongoing impact of Covid and the fact that we are playing matches behind closed doors, the work to install the seats with barriers will commence early in the New Year,” he said.
But when fans will eventually return to Old Trafford remains unknown, as Liggett said there had been no update as to when the government would “take forward its manifesto commitment to introduce safe standing”.
Currently, because Manchester is in tier 3, no fans are allowed to the stadium in Manchester. ManU’s last match in front of supports at Old Trafford was on March 8, when the team beat their local rivals Manchester City in a Premier League derby win by 2-0.