Health and safety body warns against reintroduction of football terracing

editor

Of the 3,000 surveyed by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), 34 percent said they had experienced a crowd surge or collapse – where people push forward en masse.

As the debate continues surrounding the reintroduction of terracing at top-flight football grounds, IOSH said terraces should not be reintroduced in Championship and Premier League football stadia – a call backed today by the Hillsborough Family Support Group.

Nearly two thirds who took part in the poll said that the presence of stewards, police officers and security guards had put their minds at ease.

But the recommended NVQ level two standard or equivalent for safety training of stewards at sports grounds remains optional in the UK, as set out in the industry’s Green Guide. IOSH now wants to see this training made compulsory.

Findings from the Institution’s poll – a wide-ranging survey on crowd control at major sports and music events – were published today at the launch, at Wembley Stadium, of IOSH’s new Sports Grounds and Events Group.

Group chair John Holden said: “Safe seating should be provided wherever possible instead of standing areas to prevent any chance of crowd surges.

“While smaller terraces may pose less of a risk, it’s a known fact that it’s safer to sit than stand, especially where large numbers of people are in the same area. By allowing people to sit down they have their own safety-zone in which they can safely support their team without the threat of being pushed, trampled on or crushed.

”Stewards, supervisors and safety officers need to be trained to the relevant standards in crowd safety management to help ensure accidents don’t happen.

“They spend enough money on players, football clubs – and other sports clubs for that matter – should not be cutting corners with the safety of their supporters.”

Only 43 percent interviewed in the poll said enough had been done to improve health and safety in sports stadia since the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, in which 96 football fans died.

At the end of December it was announced that the Scottish Premier League had been given the green light to pilot safe-standing areas within their stadiums.

Mr Holden added: “This is a big decision to have made and safety needs to remain paramount.

“Since the banning of terraces in the Championship and Premier League, there have been no reoccurrences, thank goodness, of the devastating scenes we saw during the football disasters of the 80s.

“Where terraces exist, stadium and health and safety managers, need to ensure they’re designed to the specifications set-out in the industry’s Green Guide – it’s vital that these terraces are maintained to the highest possible standard, to ensure spectators aren’t exposed to unnecessary risk.”

In 1989, 96 people were killed and 766 injured at Sheffield Wednesday’s football ground as a result of poor crowd control among other factors. The disaster lead to the Taylor report and terracing being banned from larger football stadiums.

The Hillsborough Family Support Group – families of a number of the victims of the disaster – believes that “under no circumstances” should terracing be reintroduced.

Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who lost her 18-year-old son James in the tragedy, said: “There should be no terracing brought back to English League football.

“We’ve moved on since the 80s when football fans were treated like cattle. Fans feel safer and families can go to games, and be 99.9 percent certain they will go home safe – the legacy left behind by the deaths at Hillsborough is everyone’s safety.

“Those who want to forget what happened could end up reliving it again if standing was brought back. Why would people want to take 10 steps back, when sports ground safety has now gone forwards.

“This is not an emotional mother speaking – it’s too late for our 96. This is about being a mother and having grandchildren and looking after their future.”

IOSH Sports Grounds and Events Group

www.iosh.co.uk

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