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Man United to install seats for ‘safe standing’ at Old Trafford

London (AFP) – Manchester United are to install 1,500 barrier seats early next year as they prepare to trial “safe standing” at Old Trafford.

Fans can finally return to Premier League matches in some parts of England this weekend after coronavirus restrictions were eased.

But United have been pressing ahead with plans to create a section of seating that allows fans to stand against barriers.

Following recommendations on stadium safety made after the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, all-seater venues have been mandatory in the top tiers of English football since the 1994/95 season.

But there has been a renewed push in recent years for safe standing to be brought in, with United following fellow Premier League clubs Tottenham and Wolves by installing barrier seating at their ground.

Managing director Richard Arnold said in April that 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”.

Local government officials approved the plans to trial 1,500 barrier seats earlier this year and installation is due to start in early 2021.

Jim Liggett, operations director at United, told a fans’ forum: “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.

“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.”

But he added that there had been no update as to when the government would “take forward its manifesto commitment to introduce safe standing”.

United are not currently allowed fans in the stadium as Manchester has been put in the tier 3 category. Old Trafford last hosted supporters in the 2-0 Premier League derby win against Manchester City on March 8.

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