New paper from the Adam Smith Institute argues the case for reinstating standing sections in football stadia following Hillsborough inquiry completion

  • The UK ban on standing in top tier football clubs should be repealed
  • Dozens of polls show up to 92% of fans support introduction of safe standing
  • 19 out of 20 Premier League clubs support safe standing
  • Safe standing implemented successfully across Europe, and at Celtic FC in Scotland
  • Cheapest ticket prices could fall by up to 57%, shaving £500 off an Arsenal season ticket

A new paper published today by the Adam Smith Institute calls on the government to allow safe standing in football stadiums, following the recent inquest’s conclusion that it was police errors, not standing fans, that were responsible for the Hillsborough tragedy.
The report reveals that safe standing is overwhelmingly supported by fans, hitting 92% in favour in Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) polls, with the large majority citing cheaper ticket prices and improved atmosphere.

And it’s not just the fans who want to stand, 19 out of 20 Premier League clubs favour offering safe standing but are restricted by the Dept for Culture Media and Sport, who exercised a power under 1989 Football Spectators Act to require football clubs to offer only seated areas.
The Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Tracey Crouch, has the power to change this regulation and allow safe standing, seen successfully implemented in many European clubs, British sports such as rugby and horse racing, and in lower tiers of British football. The report notes that, of all recorded stadium disasters from the last 20 years, none have been related to safe standing, and several have even occurred in seated stadia.

Safe standing could, the report argues, increase capacity and widen the ticket prices on offer, leaving fewer fans missing out of the big games and improving access for lower income fans. 

European clubs with standing sections have much more varied ticket prices and, the paper estimates, following suit in the UK could cut the the cost of the cheapest tickets by up to 57%. With more than a £500 saving on an Arsenal season ticket, £438 off a Chelsea season ticket and £250 off at Crystal Palace, that’s serious savings for devoted fans. 

Table 1:

Data Source: BBC Price of Football 2015 survey,

Removable alternatives to standard seats such as rail and clip on seats have been used successfully in countries such as Austria, Sweden and Germany and provide flexibility. Following a relaxation by the Scottish Premier League, Celtic has introduced rail seating for 3,000 spectators in 2016-17 season - the first formal standing in top division British football for decades.

In light of the Hillsborough inquest findings, Tracey Crouch and the government should consider lifting the standing ban and allowing the introduction of limited safe standing areas, delighting fans and clubs alike.

The report’s author Ben Southwood, Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute, said: 

“The standing ban is an anachronism: clubs across Europe have rail seating sections with no incident, creating superior atmosphere and allowing for a cheaper tier of tickets. Just look at Dortmund’s üdtribüne!

“Unlike the adversarial attitude police, club organisation and fans had during the dark days of the 80s, we now know how to manage large crowds well. The ban doesn’t fit. Tracey Crouch doesn’t need to pass a law, she has the power to simply undo the prohibition on safe standing—and she should."

Notes to editors:

For further comments or to arrange an interview, contact Flora Laven-Morris, Head of Communications, at | 07584 778207.

The report “Safe Standing: Why it’s time to remove the ban” will be live on the Adam Smith Institute website from 09:00 11th August 2016 and can be accessed ahead of time here.

The Adam Smith Institute is a free market, libertarian think tank based in London. It advocates classically liberal public policies to create a richer, freer world.