Manchester United has been given the green light by Trafford Council to go ahead with a barrier seating trial at Old Trafford.
United submitted a proposal earlier in the year, following changes to the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds (Green Guide) and a feasibility study carried out by the club afterwards.
The approval was confirmed to fan representatives at last week’s Fans’ Forum and follows lengthy discussions held with Manchester United Supporters’ Trust (MUST) and the Fans’ Forum in recent years.
Trafford Council’s approval is an agreement in principle for the club to install around 1,500 barrier seats in the North East Quadrant, in sections N2401 and N2402.
United will discuss installation options with potential suppliers, following current UK Government recommendations relating to construction site operating procedures and social distancing. Discussions will also take place with the SGSA to ratify the required amendments to the club’s stadium licence.
“It should be stated up front that our overwhelming priority is to keep our people safe from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Richard Arnold, Group Managing Director, said.
“It may seem strange to talk about stadium plans at this time, but football and our fans will return when it is safe, and our preparations for that must continue in the background.
“This announcement is the latest step in what has been a long journey with our fans. We have listened to their feedback, in particular the representations made by MUST, and worked with Trafford Council to develop and approve this proposal.
“Our 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.
It also allows us to future-proof the stadium in the event of any changes to the current all-seater stadium policy. If the trial is successful, we may consider further implementation of barrier seating in other parts of the stadium.
“We will now move on to develop the installation, compliance and licensing plan for the trial with a view to having the new seats installed for when we can welcome our supporters back to Old Trafford.”
The barrier seating trial represents the club’s broader plans to develop the stadium in ways which enhance the match day experience for supporters. In February, United announced the extension of the atmosphere section in the Stretford End’s south-west corner as part of the season ticket launch for 2020/21.
“Both of these initiatives underline our commitment to the continued improvement of Old Trafford, with a focus on further enhancing the matchday experience, atmosphere and safety for all supporters,” Arnold said.