Benfica have revealed that the Lower Tier of the Sagres Stand will be converted into a 'Safe Standing' zone for domestic games from the 2017/18 season. This area will be designated solely for the use of the club's supporters' groups, and fans who currently hold season tickets in this part of the Estádio da Luz are being urged to switch to alternative seats as early as possible.
The club has yet to announce which claques (supporters’ groups) will have access to the 'Safe Standing' zone, although it is likely to be populated by the ‘Иo Иame Boys’, and possibly the 'Diabos Vermelhos’ (Red Devils). The former already reside in the Lower Tier of the Sagres (South) Stand, while the latter can be found in the Lower Tier of the Coca-Cola (North) Stand.
UEFA regulations require that European games are played in all-seater stadiums. Hence, Benfica will need to install a flexible seating solution, which can be converted between domestic and European matches. The most likely option are 'rail seats', although other designs also exist. Rail seats are simply locked and unlocked, converting seated areas in terracing, and vice versa (see below).
'Safe Standing' has become hugely popular in the Bundesliga in recent years, and it is gaining traction throughout Europe, although there is still resistance from the government in England and Wales. By the start of the new season, 'Safe Standing' will have been adopted in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Belgium, Norway, Holland, Russia, Denmark and Scotland.
"Celtic, PSV and Ajax are all creating safe standing areas within their otherwise all-seater stadia this summer, in order to make their most passionate, standing fans safer. It's fantastic to see another of Europe's top clubs announce that they are to do likewise. It's a case of Benfica once again taking the lead in Portugal.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether safe standing Benfica-style will mean 'rail seats' or one of the other possible formats. But either way, it is great that a big club like Benfica - with an iconic stadium like the Estádio da Luz - recognise that, as modern as it is, there is still room for improvement when it comes to the safety of those fans who choose to stand. It is excellent news for the safe standing campaign all around Europe."
You can read more about the campaign for 'Safe Standing' from the UK Football Supporters' Federation. Below is a translation of Benfica's official statement on the changes.
"The renewal of season tickets for the 2016/17 season is underway, in accordance with the usual priority for seats occupied last season.
This situation cannot be maintained for the 2017/18 season in the Sagres Stand Lower Tier. For reasons that relate to the better control and safety of Members and supporters in concert with the security forces, (this area) will be assigned exclusively to supporters' groups.
Also, seats in this area will be removed for domestic games.
Thus, in order to avoid major hassles before the (2017/18) season, we advise you to proceed with the exchange of your seat now for the (2016/17) season, finding alternative seats."