Whilst we’re on the Subject of Football…

How things have changed

Posted on: 17/06/2016   By: Lee Rance

With football fever in the air, I thought it would be a great time to do a football themed blog.

Whenever we watch a football match, whether it’s on screen or at a stadium, few of us think about exactly what it takes, behind the scenes, to keep everyone safe and everything running smoothly.

As with any organisation, football clubs have certain health and safety duties, not only to their own employees but also to the general public, contractors, visitors and even trespassers on their premises. The responsibility lies with the Chairman and Board of Directors of the club.

Stoke_City_FC_Pitch_Invasion_2008

By TubesSCFC at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are many risks that would need to be assessed before a match, which may include:

  • Slip, trip or fall in and around the Ground – this could include conditions on the pitch and in the stands
  • Hygiene and sanitation issues/failures
  • Fire
  • Exposure to electric shock
  • Power cut or failure
  • Inappropriate or offensive language or chanting inside Ground
  • Anti-Social behaviour which could include – Pitch incursion; Disorder outside Ground before, during or after match; Unauthorised admissions to Ground; Conflict between spectators and any players, match officials, club officials, stewards; Items thrown within the Ground including onto the pitch area – including pyrotechnics (e.g. smoke bombs or flares)
  • Capacity crowd scenario
  • Car park vehicle accident and resulting injury or damage to property or vehicle
  • Suspicious package inside Ground
  • Extreme dangerous adverse weather conditions
  • Gas release or chemical incident

In order to tackle some of the antisocial behaviour, It is now a criminal a criminal offence entering a stadium when drunk or in possession of alcohol, possession of a firework, flare or other pyrotechnical device, possession of alcohol on trains and/or coaches when travelling to a football match, throwing any object at or towards the pitch or spectator areas, entering the pitch without lawful excuse, indecent or racist chanting and ticket touting. Any person convicted of a football related offence can receive from the Courts a football banning order. This order prevents the offender from attending any football match at home or abroad for a minimum period of three years. Failure to observe this ban is itself a criminal offence.

It wasn’t too long ago when English football was blighted by the problems of supporter violence, old stadia and a lack of any safety management culture within the stadia. Two major stadium disasters in the 1980’s and a Government-led review of stadium safety brought about a programme of change which has seen the gradual transformation of English stadia and the introduction of a new system of stadium safety management. The guidance for this was more commonly known as the Green Guide.

Implementation of this guidance has been made obligatory for professional football in England, as it is a prime requirement of each club’s stadium safety certificate (issued and monitored by the local government authority) that the stadium must comply with all aspects of the Green Guide.

The local authority is responsible for ensuring that the stadium complies with the guidance laid down in the Green Guide and has to carry out regular inspections of the stadium. The local authority also chairs a Safety Advisory Group, comprising club officials and representatives of the police, fire and ambulance services, which meets on a regular (usually monthly) basis. The Safety Advisory Group can also be called together at short notice to consider any issue arising out of a recent match or any special measures that are proposed for a forthcoming match.

As part of the safety certificate, each club is required to have:

  • A designated Safety Officer, responsible for the safety management operation at the stadium on match days;
  • Stewards trained to a nationally-recognised standard;
  • A computerised turnstile counting system, recording each spectator admission through every turnstile and immediately registering same on a display monitor in the stadium control room. Through this method, the Safety Officer can see at any moment the exact number of spectators in each area of the ground. An alarm may sound on the monitor when an area reaches a specified percentage of its allowed capacity.
  • Closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras covering key areas of the ground;
  • A stadium control room with radio communications links to steward supervisors and police, CCTV display monitors, access to the public address system and a display monitor linked to the computerised turnstile counting system.

The last few decades have seen many positive changes in the professional game and football stadia today are safe and welcoming places, offering good quality facilities to supporters. There are no pitch perimeter fences. All stadia in the top two divisions, and many in the lower divisions, are all-seated. Supporter violence inside stadia is very rare. Some confrontations between supporters do occasionally take place, but on a very limited scale and usually some way away from the stadium environment. Attendances are now back up to around 30 million per season.

Until next time.

Lee Rance

COME ON ENGLAND!