Manchester United to consider return of standing areas at Old Trafford

Champions examine converting special area at Old Trafford in boost to supporters' campaign

Manchester United have agreed to investigate the viability of introducing a safe-standing area at Old Trafford – a move which could potentially deliver major impetus to the campaign for an alternative to seats for fans in the Premier League.

United have always opposed the introduction of safe standing on the grounds that their stadium is not equipped for it and legislation would be needed to make it possible.

But The Independent understands that the club's new chief executive, Ed Woodward, expressed a willingness to explore the idea when supporters' representatives put it to him at a recent fans' forum. With Woodward's experience of standing at Chelmsford City, in his native Essex, being a contributing factor, the Premier League champions have now agreed to look at the logistics of altering the Old Trafford infrastructure to accommodate the increased number of supporters that a safe-standing area might bring.

The stadium exits and the passageways leading from them to the current seating areas are too narrow to allow the increased volume of fans that a safe-standing area would bring. It is the logistics of making these changes to the stadium – and presumably a cost-benefit analysis of doing so – that Woodward has agreed with supporters to put in place.

His decision to launch that initial investigation came during a discussion with supporters about ways of improving the Old Trafford atmosphere at the chief executive's meeting with fans' groups last month.

The campaign for safe seating, which has gradually been gathering pace – with Aston Villa, Cardiff, Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Swansea and Hull all giving their backing to the Football Supporters' Federation plan – is in need of the backing of one of Britain's more high-profile clubs. United's willingness to consider the idea is a significant landmark, if not a direct expression of support.

But the more fundamental hurdle for the thousands of fans who back such a notion is the requirement of new legislation overturning the parameters of the 1989 Football Spectators Act, which decreed that stadia in the two top divisions must be all-seater.

The illegality of introducing a standing area is spelt out in a letter to the FSF chairman Malcolm Clarke in 2007 from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, stating the Government cannot "repeal" orders directing the Football Licensing Authority without a change in legislation.

The feeling within Whitehall is that with the memory of the death of 96 fans at Hillsborough still so fresh and inquiries into the disaster still ongoing, an imminent change is inconceivable. It would need the Football Association and Premier League to back safe-seating and a Minister for Sport to possess the political will to drive the change through. The league is currently opposed, though a strong campaign from a majority of clubs would force a rethink, which is why a softening of United's stance is significant.

The Manchester United Supporters' Trust has been campaigning to promote a way of introducing safe seating which would not involve an increase in ground capacity: rail seats, which can be folded back for Premier League games and sold as seats for European matches. This device, by which safe seating has been reintroduced in Germany, creates one standing space per seat and would not require United to alter the stadium. But their introduction would entail United facing the cost of making alterations while fans would probably be able to pay less to occupy the standing area.

Yet there is a feeling among many clubs that football has moved on since the Taylor Report made all-seater stadia mandatory after Hillsborough.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution