The conclusion of the inquests into the deaths of the 96 football fans who died as a result of the Hillsborough disaster highlights the need to thoroughly plan and assess the risks surrounding major sporting fixtures, experts say.
Members of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) Sports Ground and Events Group say spectator safety depends on proper planning, teamwork and knowing how to respond to incidents when they arise.
The inquests have concluded that those who died were unlawfully killed and that Liverpool fans were not to blame for the disaster in Sheffield in 1989.
‘Stadium defects contributed to disaster’
The inquest jury also concluded that defects at the stadium contributed to the disaster and that there were police errors. It said the kick-off of the Liverpool v Nottingham Forest FA Cup semi-final should have been delayed and that there was an error in the stadium’s safety certification.
Sports ground safety expert John Holden, a former president of the IOSH and past chair of its Sports Grounds and Events Group acknowledges that ground safety and crowd control has “moved on a long way” since 1989.
Training has improved, he adds, and match day safety is now “much more professional”.
‘Planning must be carefully documented’
But he adds that ground safety operators need to make sure written procedures are in place, their planning processes are carefully documented and that safety standards are being met.
If incidents do arise, Mr Holden says, ground safety operators should log everything that happens and what pressures they were facing at the time.
Whatever the sport, thorough prior planning and pre-match stadium inspections using evidence to inform any decisions, talks with the emergency services and holding a full debrief after the game are all essential.
Date Published: May 15, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown