Sports ground safety guidance

The sixth edition of the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds takes into account the increasing threat of terrorist attack


  • Rick Riding

26 September 2019

Sport is part of our national culture. Every week, many thousands of people in the UK attend football, rugby, horse racing and other sporting events. At the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) therefore, our priority is to make sure people do so in as safe and secure surroundings as possible.

Last year, the SGSA published the sixth edition of the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds, commonly referred to as the Green Guide. This is recognised globally as the definitive statement of best practice in sports ground safety and the development and refurbishment of stadia.

The safety of all people in a sports ground is imperative, and the principles in the guidance help to ensure this. But the challenges sports grounds face today are not the same as when the first Green Guide was published in 1973, or even the fifth edition in 2008. Incidents that have occurred over the past five years, including the terrorist attacks at the Stade de France in 2015 and those at Westminster Bridge, Manchester Arena and London Bridge in the UK in 2017 are a stark reminder of the vulnerability of crowded places and the importance of keeping people safe.

In today's world, we need to consider the increasing threat posed by terrorist attack when developing plans, and this was uppermost in our minds when preparingthe latest Green Guide. So the new edition offers additional guidance on the zone external to the stadium through which spectators must pass when arriving at or leaving an event, referred to as zone ex.

It is unlikely that the venue owner hasany legal responsibility for people within that area. A partnership approach is needed, working across disciplines such as safety, policing, stadium management, ambulances and others to ensure that someone takes a lead on safety in this zone.

Advances in crowd modelling, asidentified in the Green Guide, can help plan for situations in zone ex. In the design of new stadia, it is important to understand people movement, but we don't now have to wait for the venue to open to realise what does and doesn't work. Using simulations and analysis we can get a good idea of the way people move around sports grounds under certain conditions, and the technology that enables this modelling is improving all the time

"We need to consider the increasing threat posed by terrorist attack when developing plans"

In May, the UK signed the Council of Europe Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events. The SGSA bases its advice on the three central tenets of the convention, as follows.
  • Safety: the importance of overlay around a sports ground can sometimes affect the safe arrival, circulation and egress of spectators. This includes additions to the stadium that are not permanent structures, such as queuing barriers and fan zones. It is important that these are considered when planning any security measures to ensure that safety isn't compromised.
  • Security: at times there will be a need to consider additional security overlays to manage risks at an event, such as enhanced screening and searching, vehicle barriers and so on. Consideration must also be givento the possible unintended consequences of these, for example increases in queueing and delayed entry into a stadium.
  • Service: remembering this should be an enjoyable sporting event, the need to balance safety and security against spectator experience is critical. The most important asset a sports ground has in terms of safety is effective, vigilant and friendly staff.

We must never be complacent about safety. In order to maintain the excellent safety reputation of sport grounds in the UK, we must continue to look ahead, adapt and respond to the changing world.

Rick Riding is an inspector at the SGSA rick.riding@sgsamail.org.uk

Related competencies include: Legal/regulatory competence

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