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SGSA Conference 2022

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SGSA Conference 2022 Programme Launched

Evaluation of ‘early adopters’ of licensed standing areas in football stadia: Interim findings summary

In January 2022, CFE Research commenced an evaluation of ‘early adopters’ of licensed standing areas in five football grounds, commissioned by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority. The findings of the research will be provided to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to inform its decisions about the potential wider roll-out of licensed standing.

The following provides an overview of some of the key findings from the research so far.  Please note, the research is ongoing and as such these are emerging findings only.

  1. Installing barriers or rails in areas of persistent standing in seated accommodation continues to have a positive impact on spectator safety. This is in line with the findings of the 2019-20 study conducted by CFE Research, The Safe Management of Persistent Standing in Seated Areas.


  1. A number of positive impacts of installing barriers or rails have been identified, consistent with the previous research conducted:
  • Goal celebrations are more orderly
  • Egress is more uniform
  • Pockets of overcrowding can be easier to spot
  • Barriers offer stability for people moving up and down aisles and gangways
  • Customer service is enhanced by responding to spectators’ preferences for seating or standing.


  1. Operating licensed standing areas has the additional benefit of removing the requirement for safety staff to encourage spectators to sit down, reducing the risk of conflict between staff and spectators.


  1. There is no evidence to date that the introduction of licensed standing areas has led to an increase in standing elsewhere in the stadia, but neither has it eradicated it. It will be important to monitor this as any increase (or decrease) in standing in seated areas is likely to emerge over time.


  1. The research has identified a number of learning opportunities for clubs. CFE will continue to explore how early adopter clubs are dealing with these issues over the remainder of the research, including:
  • Assessing the level of demand for standing accommodation to ensure sufficient supply and mitigate the risk of persistent standing elsewhere;
  • Responding to this with ticketing strategies for both home and away supporters; and
  • Meeting the demand for standing tickets from families with children.


  1. Blocking of aisles and gangways, climbing on infrastructure, and the problematic behaviour of supporters remain risks associated with standing, but none of these are reported to have increased as a result of the introduction of licensed standing areas.

Interim findings summary (PDF)

SGSA Conference 2022

SGSA training days

Guidance on crowd related medical incidents

Following the recent occurrences of stoppages of play due to crowd related medical incidents, the SGSA has been involved in discussions with other footballing bodies about appropriate advice and guidance to support safety teams.

As a result, we have created new guidance which includes a range of indicative questions that could be considered in preparing for crowd medical incidents, and ensuring that all of the stakeholders involved are aware of their roles and responsibilities.

Guidance on crowd related medical incidents (PDF)

PhD partnership announced

The Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) is pleased to announce a new partnership with the University of Edinburgh, which sees the creation of a PhD studentship focused on understanding the drivers of safety at major sporting events.

Applications for the studentship, which is part-funded by the SGSA, are currently open via the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science.

The project will establish how event organisers can make football events safer. It has two core research questions:

  1. how group processes between attendees impacts perceived safety at football events, and
  2. how demographic differences impact perceived safety and group relations.

The studentship will be based in the Department of Psychology within the  School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.  It will be supervised by Dr Anne Templeton and SGSA’s Head of Partnerships and Strategy, Darren Whitehouse.

Martyn Henderson OBE, Chief Executive of the SGSA, said: “This is an exciting new collaboration for the SGSA.  Our aim is to enhance research into safety at sports grounds.  This PhD studentship reinforces our commitment to investing in high-quality research, which will further our own evidence base on which to shape future policies.”

The closing date for applications is 14 April, and applicants must meet specific criteria as outlined on the studentship opportunity webpage.

SGSA Conference programme overview released

We have released the overview of the SGSA Conference 2022, which outlines the programme and issues being considered through the day.

View the overview of the programme (PDF)

The conference will include three main plenary sessions, with the themes of:

  • What’s changed in the last two years
  • Planning for major events
  • What does the future hold for the sector?

Along with the plenary sessions, there will be two sets of breakout sessions, with topics including:

  • What’s needed for licensed standing
  • Anti-social behaviour and pyrotechnics
  • Accessible stadia
  • Fan engagement and safety governance

We’ll be releasing the names of speakers over the next couple of weeks, with the full programme available from mid April.

The early bird discount is still available and ends on 31 March.  Tickets can be booked online:

Book your tickets here.

Full information on the conference can be found on the conference page:

If you have any questions about the conference, contact Andrea Jones ( or Monica Gameiro (

SGSA Conference 2022 – tickets now available

Tickets are now available for the SGSA Conference 2022

Join us on Tuesday 24 May at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester

Book your tickets here


On 24 May 2022, the SGSA will be holding their sixth Annual Conference at the Etihad Stadium, one of the first grounds to be pioneering licensed ‘safe standing’ in seated areas from 1 January 2022. This comes as great news after the unfortunate cancelation of the Annual Conference over the past two consecutive years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, much has changed.

In celebration of moving forward with the historic change to allow standing in top flight football grounds in England and Wales for the first time in nearly 30 years, we are extremely pleased to be hosting our annual conference at the Etihad Stadium.

The last 19 months have been busy for sports grounds safety professionals. We’ve seen our events come to a halt and experienced sport without spectators, tackled the challenges of managing the safe return of fans, welcomed the policy change of licensed standing areas; and saw the new guidance on Event Safety Management being published.

The focus of the SGSA is the safety and enjoyment of all fans at sports grounds. In order to never become complacent when it comes to safety, we aim to bring together the events and sports sector at the SGSA Conference to discuss the latest developments in sports grounds and event safety.


The conference will start at 10am and finish at 5pm (registration from 9am).  There will also be tours of the Etihad Stadium available either before or after the conference.

Over the coming months we’ll be announcing details of our speakers and sessions.

The day will include a mixture of full plenary and breakout sessions, providing both strategic overviews of some of the biggest issues in sports grounds safety, as well as more in-depth discussions on specific subjects.

A focus of the conference will be the introduction of licensed standing in seated areas – with the event taking place at one of the early adopter grounds, you’ll be able to hear first hand the experiences from the first few months of its implementation.

The programme will also include:

  • What’s happening in the sports grounds safety sector and the long term impact of the pandemic
  • The Protect Duty
  • Safety management
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Fan engagement

There will be plenty of opportunities for you to network with colleagues and visit our exhibition area.

Once registered, you’ll be kept updated with the latest programme announcements and information about the day.

Find out all of the information and keep up to date on our conference webpage:

Licensed standing begins

Chelsea v Liverpool has been a very big game in recent years – and the latest match was no exception.  Two of the best clubs in the country, both needing a win to try to catch Manchester City FC at the top of the Premier League, going toe-to-toe before a full capacity crowd at Stamford Bridge with countless millions watching on TVs in the UK and around the world. 

But the match which took place on Sunday (2 January) was important not only to determine Premier League positions, but also for the introduction of licensed standing.  The match was the first top flight football match to allow fans to stand for nearly 30 years.  After many years of leading on this issue, I’m pleased to say “I was there”.  

I had every confidence in Chelsea’s safety management team but I was particularly keen to witness their ability to manage the crowds in these areas – and also the reaction from fans themselves.

What really stood out – before, during and after the match – was just how good the stewards were in managing the new standing areas.  Stewards, at the best of times, have a difficult job to do.  But due to excellent planning and preparation by the safety team at Stamford Bridge, in-depth briefings, and a clear directive to be firm but fair and ensure control of the areas, the stewards did an excellent job.

Speaking to the stewards on duty in the areas, they were very pleased with the safe standing, as they felt it made their lives easier – no constant patrolling asking fans to sit down, only to be ignored.

What also struck me was the reaction of the fans.  Throughout the match I spoke with home and away fans, who were all happy with the introduction of licensed standing.  I spoke to one female Liverpool supporter who was there with her son.  She had been anxious about attending because of comments in the media that areas with licensed standing would be ‘no go’ areas for families.  However, she told me she’d found their allocated spaces to be a very safe environment, and that she and her son had a great time.

Her comments, however, struck me hard.  A return to standing in the top two tiers of football is an emotive issue.  How can it not be after the tragedy of Hillsborough? But this is not a return to the days of old, with huge standing terraces and the discomfort that usually went with standing in those areas. This is a modern approach with the focus on improving fan safety.

We know that many fans prefer to stand while enjoying football. 

In an industry where reforms have often followed tragedy, it makes a very refreshing change to do something proactively, whilst at the same time delivering what many thousands of fans have been calling for, for many years – the  choice to legally stand safely and cheer on their teams.

Licensed standing areas have not been brought in overnight.  They have been established carefully, based on research, which started in 2017 and following years of campaigning from the Football Supporters’ Association.  

Chelsea FC is one of only five early adopter grounds that are eligible to offer licensed standing areas, alongside with Cardiff City FC, Manchester City FC, Manchester United FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC.  To become an early adopter, grounds had to meet strict criteria, developed following consultation with a number of key organisations, including the Premier League, EFL and the police.  

The early adopter programme will run until the end of the season, and will be independently evaluated by CFE Research.  The findings will help inform the Government’s decision on the future of the policy.

Lord Justice Taylor’s report into the Hillsborough tragedy stated that “complacency is the enemy of safety”.  That quote is as relevant today as it was 30 years ago – we must never be complacent.  Nor should we discount advances in safety simply because it is a change to the established norm.   Our focus is, and always will be, the safety of all fans at sports grounds.  The introduction of licensed standing areas is an important and exciting step forward.  I’m looking forward to seeing it develop over the rest of the season. 

Martyn Henderson awarded OBE in New Year’s Honours List

Congratulations to the SGSA’s Chief Executive, Martyn Henderson on being awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

His award is for services to sports safety during COVID-19. Over the course of the pandemic, Martyn was integral to the safe return of spectators to sports grounds, leading the Government’s Events Research Programme for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Speaking of receiving his award, Martyn said: “It’s very humbling to receive this recognition for public service during a pandemic which has had such a devastating impact on all of our lives and livelihoods.

“The last two years have been the hardest of my professional life but, in many ways, the most rewarding – particularly working with the fantastic teams at the SGSA and in Government, as well as with so many dedicated people across the sports sector, to enable fans to return safely to our stadia.

“COVID has of course reminded us that sport isn’t everything.  The absence of fans may seem a trivial concern when compared with the enormous sacrifices made by our carers, key workers and others who have helped to combat this horrible disease.  But live sport brings enormous joy and a powerful sense of community to so many people and it was a great privilege to have played a small part in its return.

“This is also an opportunity to thank everyone that I’ve worked alongside in my 25 years as a civil servant – in the Department for Work and Pensions, Government Equalities Office and most recently the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.  I would have achieved precisely nothing without them!”

Congratulations to Martyn from everyone at the SGSA on this well deserved award.