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Safety at Sports Grounds

Following various major accidents at Sports Grounds, the need to control the fabric and management of sports grounds became apparent and the provisions of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 placed this control with Local Authorities. The Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sports Act 1987 made it a duty of Local Authorities to enforce the Acts.

Following the fire at Bradford FC, covered stands which would accommodate over 500 spectators came under a similar control to that afforded to major football grounds and large stadia designated by the Secretary of State.

Lord Taylor, in his report on the Hillsborough disaster, recognised the need for Building Control to take a major role in the safety of Sports Grounds and went on to lay down procedure to ensure the participation of all emergency services and other interested parties.

Designated Grounds - Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975

The Secretary of State designates sports grounds as needing a General Safety Certificate or Special Safety Certificate.  The person responsible for the ground must apply to the appropriate Authority for a General Safety Certificate or Special Safety Certificate.

On receipt of an application, we must determine whether the applicant is the qualified/responsible person and if so must issue a General Safety Certificate.

The General Safety Certificate may contain such conditions as we consider necessary or expedient to secure reasonable safety, e.g. management requirements, First Aid provisions, strength of structural elements etc.

In general these conditions will follow the guidance given in the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds.

Attention is also drawn to the Football Licensing Authority's Guidance on Safety Certificates and the London District Surveyors Association Specimen General Safety Certificate and Guide for Sports Grounds.

To prepare a Safety Certificate we will:

(a) Request suitable drawings from the applicant.
(b) Survey the ground in detail.
(c) Hold Safety Team Meetings with the Emergency Services to determine overall requirements.
(d) Consult with other expert/other interested bodies etc.
(e) Seek structural, electrical, mechanical and any other pertinent certification.
(f) Consult with ground management.
(g) Determine works conditions and numbers of spectators to be permitted into the ground.

On the issue of the General Safety Certificate it is necessary to notify interested persons and advertise in accordance with the appropriate regulations.

After the issue of the General Safety Certificate, During Performance inspections should be made from time to time, on match days or during other sporting occasions, to ensure that the terms and conditions of the Certificate are suitable and appropriate for the use and to monitor the club's observance of the terms and conditions.

An annual inspection (and subsequent follow-up inspections) of the ground is also required by statute (Section 10B).

Special Safety Certificates are issued for activities which are not included in the General Safety Certificate and the process is similar to that for General Safety Certificates.

Advisory Groups/Safety Teams, comprising emergency services, the relevant clubs and their support organisations and the appropriate local authority officers, should be set up to deal with all safety issues which might affect the spectators. This group should meet regularly (e.g. monthly) under the Chairmanship of the local authority.

Regulated Stands - Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sports Act - (Part III)

We must, in the first instance, investigate all sports grounds in its area to determine if any have covered stands which will accommodate 500 or more spectators.

We must then issue a Preliminary Determination to the owner of any such stand.

After two months from the issue of the Preliminary Determination, the Determination will become final.

It is then illegal for the stand to be used unless an application for a General Safety Certificate or Special Safety Certificate has been made.

Where a covered stand which will accommodate 500 or more spectators is erected, a General Safety Certificate must be applied for before it can be used.

The process for the issue and the monitoring of the effectiveness of a Certificate for a Regulated Stand is similar to that for a Designated Ground, but related to the stand and the escape routes from the stand only.


A person is, on summary conviction, liable to a fine if:

(i) A designated sports ground is used for an activity needing a Safety Certificate where either no application has been made for such a Certificate or where the application has been, or is deemed to have been withdrawn.

(ii) A General Safety Certificate is in force for a stadium which is used for an activity for which the General Safety Certificate or a Special Safety Certificate is in operation in respect of it.

(iii) Any terms or conditions of a General Safety Certificate or Special Safety Certificate are contravened.

(iv) Spectators are admitted to a ground in contravention of a notice prohibiting or restricting the use of the ground.

(Section 12 Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 as amended).

In relation to regulated stands. The holder of a Safety Certificate is guilty of an offence if:

(i) Spectators are admitted to a regulated stand where no Safety Certificate which covers the use of the stand is in operation.
(ii) Any of the terms or conditions of a Safety Certificate for a regulated stand are contravened.

(Section 36 Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act 1987)


Where we consider the condition to be such that the public will be at serious risk, a notice prohibiting or restricting the use of all or part of the ground may be issued.

(Section 10 Safety of Sports Ground Act 1975 as amended).

Appeals are to a Magistrates Court.

Cost Recovery
We may charge an applicant the cost of work reasonably and actually involved in the processing of an application for the issue, amendment, replacement, transfer of cancellation of a certificate.

Level of Service
The size and complexity of a sports ground or regulated stand, will affect the time involved in the various actions needed to prepare, issue and monitor a General Safety Certificate. The ground management's attitude to safety and its ability or willingness to put into place the safety requirements, can also greatly affect the level of input needed by the Local Authority.

Each Designated Sports Ground and Regulated Stand will be inspected annually and the contents of the Safety Certificate reviewed.

Last Updated on Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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