The success of any major tournament, and the reputation of the host city, is intrinsically linked to the safety of the venues. The UK is rightly seen as a beacon of excellence in sports grounds safety but it is true to say that this excellence has come at a heavy price: tragedies such as Hillsborough highlight how poor our sporting infrastructure and levels of safety management were.
Watching live sport is a thrilling experience and cities that are hosting major tournaments will want to be assured that the safety of all people within a venue is taken seriously. In this article we outline a strategic approach to safety and provide some detail on forthcoming guidance that will enable host cities to manage safety challenges in today’s world.
Host cities should ensure, early in the development process, that they adopt an integrated approach to safety, security and service. What does this mean? It means that safety, security and customer services are recognised as interdependent and cannot be treated in isolation. Safety and security must never come at the cost of customer service.
Host cities will know that security and safety are critical factors; the attacks at the Stade de France in Paris, in November 2015 showed that major sporting venues and infrastructure are a target for terrorist activity. Furthermore, the 2017 attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, in which twenty-two were killed, demonstrated that whilst there is often vigilance and attention given to crowds entering a venue, there is often less attention paid on exit.
But what does customer service mean? It means ensuring that the experience of the visitor is also a priority and that safety and security do not come at the cost of a poor experience. Communicating effectively with spectators, for example on search regimes, will assist host cities to avoid crowd agitation.
One of the reasons that the London 2012 Olympics were so successful off the field was the presence of the volunteer ‘Games makers’ who were there to signpost and guide spectators around the Olympic Park and venue: a great example of an integrated approach.
The principles of an integrated approach are firmly embedded within the newly released 6th edition of the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds. The Guide is used across the world by architects, stadium owners, host cities and venue managers to help design and refurbish stadium and operate major events in line with international best practice.
The Guide reflects today’s challenges. As examples of what is new compared to the previous 5th edition published in 2008, is guidance not only on evacuation in the event of an issue within the stadium, but also the principle of “exceptional egress” which may arise as a consequence of an external stimulus and may indeed involve internal movement or “invacuation” The full impact on the psychology of a large crowd in response to being held within a stadium is not yet known but we provide practical steps to take as this area continues to develop.
It also addresses the external factors that create interactions between the stadium, the spectators and the immediate environment, including local transport hubs (‘Zone Ex’). These external factors will be important for stadium owners and operators to consider as part of their overall event management strategy and integrated approach to safety.
In our work across the world advising on strategic safety challenges we often see stadiums that are built to a good standard, but deaths and serious injuries occur due to failings in safety management. It is hard to overestimate just what a positive impact a more strategic approach to safety management can have.
In summary, the safest venue is an empty venue, but nobody wants to see that. Adopting an integrated approach means not just recognising the skills and expertise from different parties in managing an event safely and being clear on the roles and responsibilities of each party, but in ensuring that each agency dovetails to provide a strategic approach to safety.
Further details on an integrated approach can be obtained via the Council of Europe. The Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA), as the world’s leading authority on sports grounds safety, are standing members of the committee. We advise governments, host cities, tournament committees and venues on best practice in venue safety management.