Q: John, how is health and safety management for an Olympic football match different to a Premiership game?
A: Generally it isn’t – the same processes apply, no matter what football match it is. However, the one big difference is that the crowds we saw through the gates at Old Trafford for the Olympics were largely impartial and applauded good play from both teams.
The crowds were generally just delighted be there and experience the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of being able to attend the Games. Olympic matches at Old Trafford were very much a family affair. Often, because of this, people turned up as little as five minutes before the match started, which caused large queues on entrance to the ground.
Generally, in terms of health and safety, most spectators wouldn’t have seen any difference in the way things were managed for the Olympic Games.
Q: What are the main health and safety issues faced on match days at Old Trafford?
A: The main issue that all of us looking after Olympic venues faced were the large numbers of people arriving at the venue. Many of the people attending matches at Old Trafford were foreign to the ground. In some cases, spectators had never even been to a football match before, and were unfamiliar with the rules surrounding drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.
Prior to league matches, ground safety officers look at previous fixtures involving the two teams and for the visiting side, they check match reports for other grounds they’ve played at during that season. This isn’t possible for Olympic Games and because of this, all staff involved in health and safety at the Olympics had to remain on the ball.
Q: Was health and safety more stringent for the Olympics? If not, should this have been the case?
A: Not particularly. These venues are used to handling large crowds and because of this they only need to apply their expertise in the same way they normally do. The nature of the Olympics meant that security on entry to Old Trafford was tighter – rather like that in operation in UK airports. This was simply because of the high security risk an event of this calibre attracts.
A: Not in the UK – our standards are generally high and there is a great deal of experience and expertise within the industry. But that’s not to say that future host countries can’t learn from our good practice techniques.
Q: Finally, to what extent was the match day risk assessment adjusted to fit in with the needs of the Olympics?
A: Old Trafford’s ground safety officer is responsible for the risk assessments, which were pretty much the same as they are for any normal match at Old Trafford. Where the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games has arranged any pre match or half time entertainment, this will be no different to a normal match day for the stadium.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) Sports Grounds and Events Group and London Metropolitan Branch are holding a joint event safety seminar on 11 October 2012, at Millwall Football Club.
The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health