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Martyn Henderson’s Reflections

After five years as SGSA’s Chief Executive, this month we say our farewells to Martyn Henderson OBE as he moves on to his new role as interim Chief Operating Officer for the new independent regulator for men’s elite football.

To mark the occasion, Martyn took some time to reflect. Here’s what he had to say:

    What do you think have been the biggest developments in the sector since you joined SGSA?

    Football is always changing. Who would have predicted when I started in Summer 2018 what the future would hold for Wrexham, Luton Town, Chelsea or Bury, or that a pandemic would bring football to a halt entirely and then require matches to be held behind closed doors. Even the organisation that I’m moving to – the new football regulator – would have seemed very far-fetched only a few years ago. So, change is a constant and its critical that policy and practice can keep pace with developments.

    The two changes I would highlight are the introduction of ‘safe standing’, which is now offered at 14 grounds that were previously all-seated – and, following the pandemic and the awful events in and around Wembley at the Men’s EUROs Final, a more proactive, less complacent attitude towards safety across the industry.

    What are the top projects you have been involved with, and why are they so meaningful to you?

    I’ve already mentioned safe standing, an evidence-based change to safety standards of which I’m very proud.  The other project which stands out is the Events Research Programme, which pioneered the safe return of spectators to live events as we emerged from the pandemic.  That was the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced but also the most rewarding.  People have often asked rhetorically, “What would sport be without fans?”.  Well, we saw the answer during those dark days and I hope we never see them again!

    What can the sports and events safety sector continue to build on in order to improve spectator safety?

    One of my biggest concerns in recent years has been in relation to stewarding.  The role, which I believe is critical to delivering safe, welcoming environments for fans, has been devalued – with a race to the bottom in terms of pay, conditions and standards.  Thankfully, that’s starting to change, at least within football.  And, with leadership from sports bodies like the Premier League and EFL, I hope we can get to a much better place.

    What will you miss the most from your role as SGSA’s Chief Executive?

    My team! They have been fantastic from my first day to my last, and have been so much fun to work with. I’m also sad knowing that I won’t be here to see through some of the things we’ve set in train, for example brining the women’s game within scope of our licensing. Luckily, I’m staying within football so I hope I’ll still get to see everyone!



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