The Football Safety Structure In England Sports Essay

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Football Safety Structure in England


Following the Hillsborough Stadium disaster in 1989, the football authorities in England set out to improve the quality of stewarding.  Previous to that stewards did not really have a safety function in the stadium - in those days the police were primarily responsible for the maintenance of public order and safety in the stadium.

Now, some 17 years on, all of the 92 clubs in the top four divisions in England have a well-trained, well-organised team of stewards and this has led to a significant reduction in the numbers of police officers required to be deployed inside football grounds. 

Safety in the stadium is now the responsibility of the club management. Police will attend games as required by the Safety Certificate (which authorise the local police to determine the number of police officers required for each match) but the police only take responsibility within the stadium in the even of a public order situation arising. There is a clear distinction between safety & security, although these do overlap.

Green Guide

The British Government has for many years produced a set of requirements under the title of the “Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds”, more commonly known as the “Green Guide”.  The Fourth Edition, published in 1997, includes guidance on every technical aspect of safety in sports stadia, with particular relevance to football stadia.  There is a separate chapter on stewarding.  The Guide can be purchased from The Stationery Office (price £19.95).  Further details (including overseas sales) can be found on the TSO web site: (enter “Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds” in the search box).

Safety Certificate

National legislation requires a Safety Certificate to be issued in respect of the stadium of every club playing in the top four divisions in England and the national stadium. The local government authority is responsible for issuing the safety certificate and for ensuring that the stadium complies with the guidance laid down in the “Green Guide”. 

Each club is required, by its Safety Certificate, to have:

  • A designated Safety Officer, responsible for the safety management operations at the stadium on match days;
  • A written safety policy for spectators;
  • Stewards trained to a nationally-recognised standard;
  • A computerised turnstile counting system, recording each spectator admission through every turnstile and immediately registering the same information on a display monitor in the stadium Control Room. Through this method, the Safety Officer can see at any moment the exact number of spectators in each area of the ground. An alarm sounds on the monitor when an area reaches a specified percentage of its allowed capacity;
  • Closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras covering key areas of the ground;
  • A stadium Control Room with radio communication links to steward supervisors and police, CCTV display monitors, access to the public address system and a display monitor linked to the computerised turnstile system. With these radio links, the Safety Officer can immediately contact, or be contacted by, his/her steward supervisors in any part of the ground.

If the local authority is not satisfied with the efficiency of any of the above items it may reduce the capacity of the whole stadium or specific areas of the stadium accordingly.

Each club is required, by its Safety Certificate, to carry out an inspection of the stadium 24 hours before an event, as well as the pre and post match inspections.

Safety Advisory Group

The local authority chairs a Safety Advisory Group, comprising club officials and representatives of the police, fire and ambulance services, which meets on a regular (usually monthly) basis.  The Safety Advisory Group can also be called together at short notice to consider any issue arising out of a recent match or any special measures that are proposed for a forthcoming match.

Football Licensing Authority

The national government has established, since 1991, the Football Licensing Authority (FLA).  The FLA is responsible for monitoring the performance of local authorities in the issuing of safety certificates.  The FLA has 9 regional inspectors who are responsible for liaising with the clubs/local authorities in their area.  The inspectors attend each Safety Advisory Group meeting of the clubs in their area and visit matches at these clubs on a regular basis.

Each club in the top four divisions in England is required to apply annually to the FLA for a licence in respect of its stadium. This licence, which is in addition to the Safety Certificate issued by the local authority may include provisions restricting spectator admission to seated areas only, or prohibiting spectator access to specified areas of standing accommodation, if such standing areas do not comply with the guidance laid down in the ‘Green Guide'.

Since 1994 each club in the top two divisions in England has been required, via its FLA licence, to restrict the admission of spectators to seated accommodation only. Clubs in the bottom two divisions are allowed to retain standing areas, but only if these comply fully with the guidance laid down in the ‘Green Guide'. Clubs promoted from the third highest to the second highest division are given three years to make the change to all seater status.

There is a lot of useful information on the FLA website ( including advice on:

  • Briefing / de-briefing
  • Exercise planning
  • Contingency planning
  • Safety certification
  • Statement of safety policy for spectators
  • Standing in seated areas

Safety Officer

Each football club in England has a designated Safety Officer, responsible for the safety management operation at the stadium on match days. He or she is generally responsible for the recruitment and training of stewards.

The Safety Officers have formed their own national organisation - the Football Safety Officers' Association - to share and promote best practice. The FSOA has its own website ( which has useful contact details and documents, a forum for exchange of views and a secure section for FSOA members to record statistics from their home matches, which can then be viewed by other FSOA members.

The FSOA has developed a training course for safety officers, known as the Event and Match Day Safety Management Course.  Further information on this is available from John Rutherford at the FSOA - tel: +44 (0) 1773 520606; email:

Stewards' Training

Clubs are responsible for the training of their stewards, but The Football Association, FA Premier League and Football League, in conjunction with the Football Safety Officers' Association and the Football Licensing Authority, have produced a “Training Package for Stewarding at Football Grounds”, which contains all the Powerpoint presentation slides, in paper format and on CD-Rom, to help provide the training.  Clubs can adapt the electronic version to produce their own club-specific training programmes.

The Training Package covers eight modules, plus an induction module and a refresher training module. The ten modules are:

  • Familiarisation and Induction Training
  • Module 1 - General Responsibilities
  • Module 2 - Maintenance of a Safe Environment
  • Module 3 - Response to Spectators
  • Module 4 - Emergency Aid
  • Module 5 - Basic Fire Safety Awareness
  • Module 6 - Contingency and Evacuation Plan Training
  • Module 7 - Dealing with Racism and Disability Discrimination
  • Module 8 - Conflict Management
  • Refresher Training

Stewards are required to keep all aisles, gangways, exits and escape routes clear throughout an event.  Perimeter walls are required to have exit gates at regular intervals and stewards are required to man these gates at all times and also to monitor any build up of crowd pressure in standing areas.

The Certificate in Event and Match Day Stewarding (CEMS)

In 1999, the football authorities also introduced a training and assessment programme for stewards, known as the Football Stewarding Qualification (FSQ).  A criticism of the FSQ, however, was that it was an “in-house” system, produced by football for football, and there was no independent accreditation of the qualification.  To rectify this, the football authorities have been working with 1st4Sport Qualifications to develop a new qualification, the Certificate in Event and Match Day Stewarding (CEMS), which was accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority on 25th April 2005 and sits at Level 2 on the National Qualifications Framework.  The CEMS replaced the FSQ from the start of the 2005/06 football season.

Clubs continue training to the Stewards Training Package; if they decide to put their stewards through the CEMS, the clubs need to register as an approved centre with 1st4Sport Qualifications or work with a further education college that is an approved centre.  Stewards will be assessed on their knowledge and competency under each of the units and elements within the CEMS and, if successful, they will be awarded the Certificate in Event and Match Day Stewarding.

The CEMS is recognised by the Football Licensing Authority and by local authorities” as being to a national standard in steward training and assessment, as required by the “Green Guide”.  The other qualification accepted as being to a national standard is the NVQ Level 2 in Spectator Control.

Stewarding Agencies

Most football clubs in England recruit and train their own stewards, but there are also a number of stewarding agencies who provide stewards. Stewarding agencies should be providing stewards trained to the same standards as in-house club personnel: in other words, they should be trained to the Stewards Training Package and they should have achieved either the CEMS or the NVQ.  Football clubs should be asking agencies to provide stewards trained to a national standard. 

Duties of Stewards

The Green Guide states that the basic duties of stewards (whether directly employed, hired or contracted) should be to enforce the management's safety policy, the requirements of the safety certificate and all ground regulations.  The Green Guide lists 10 basic duties for stewards:

  1. To understand their general responsibilities towards the health and safety of all categories of spectators (including those with disabilities and children), other stewards, ground staff and themselves;
  2. To carry out pre-event safety checks;
  3. To control or direct spectators who are entering or leaving the ground, to help achieve an even flow of people in, to and  from the viewing areas;
  4. To assist in the safe operation of the ground, not to view the activity taking place;
  5. To staff entrances, exits and other strategic points; for example, segregation, perimeter and exit doors or gates which are not continuously secured in the open position while the ground is in use;
  6. To recognise crowd conditions so as the ensure the safe dispersal of spectators and the prevention of overcrowding, particularly on terraces;
  7. To assist the emergency services as required;
  8. To provide basic emergency first aid;
  9. To respond to emergencies (such as the early stages of a fire); to raise the alarm and take the necessary immediate action;
  10. To undertake specific duties in an emergency or as directed by the safety officer or the appropriate emergency service officer.

Ground Regulations

All clubs in the top four divisions are issued with a standard set of Ground Regulations.  These posters are displayed at the entrances to and inside the stadium.  The Ground Regulations make it clear that entrance to the ground is subject to acceptance by the visitor of these Ground Regulations.  The Regulations specify the list of articles that cannot be brought into the stadium and they give the stewards the right to search any or all spectators.  The following are expressly forbidden under the Ground Regulations:

  • the throwing of any object;
  • unauthorised entry onto the playing area;
  • the use of racist and/or foul or abusive language;
  • persistent standing in a seated area;
  • attempting to enter the ground whilst drunk;
  • possessing alcohol when entering the ground or in a part of the ground from which the event can be directly viewed.


The Safety Officer usually briefs his/her senior stewards and this briefing will then be cascaded down to all stewards on duty before the turnstiles are opened. The briefing will usually follow a standard set of headings, with specific information about the day's event being given under each heading.

A procedure has been established whereby, at all matches, the Safety Officer and Police Match Commander (if police are in attendance) will brief the Referee on security issues 75 minutes before kick off. Should there be a build up of late arriving spectators outside the stadium as kick off approaches (as was the case at Hillsborough) the Safety Officer and / or Police Match Commander may consider asking the Referee to delay the kick off.


Police now provide nationally approved and accredited training courses for match commanders - which they are required to attend before taking operational command at a football match (or any other major sporting event).

Football Association (FA)

The FA has a Crowd Control Committee whose remit includes spectator safety in stadia. This committee will receive and implement the safety guidelines laid down by FIFA and UEFA within the comprehensive legislative framework.

The FA employs a Head of Stadia, Safety and Security who is responsible for liaison with the national leagues, clubs, government, police, the FLA and FSOA on all safety related matters.

The FA also has a team of 8 Advisers who regularly attend club matches and report on stadium safety and security at those matches. They report to the Head of Stadia, Safety and Security at the FA.

For matches played by the national team the FA also employs a Head of Team and Corporate Security and a Special Adviser on Security - who liaise with the Safety Officer and / or Police Match Commander at the relevant venue in the UK or abroad. The Head of Team and Corporate Security also retains a small team of former police officers with experience in football policing.


These measures have been in place successfully at stadia in England for a number of years now.