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SGSA Chief Executive appointed to lead new football regulator

Martyn Henderson OBE has been appointed to be the interim Chief Operating Officer for the new independent regulator for men’s elite football.

As a result, Martyn will be leaving his current role as Chief Executive of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) at the end of January 2024.  He has been in the role for over five years.  During his tenure, he has:

  • Introduced licensed ‘safe’ standing in top flight football grounds in England and Wales.
  • Supported the football industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, including as leader of the Government’s Events Research Programme, which oversaw the safe return of live events, for which he was awarded an OBE.
  • Guided the SGSA through its first independent review, which found that the SGSA “is seen nationally and internationally as a centre of excellence on sports ground safety, that punches well above its weight”.

Commenting on his appointment, Martyn said: “I am thrilled to have this opportunity to help establish the new regulator for football.

As Chief Executive of the SGSA, I have worked with fans and the industry to introduce safe standing and to help the game recover following the pandemic.  I look forward to taking the same partnership approach to improving the governance and financial stability of football.”

Martyn is the first appointment to establish the new independent regulator for men’s elite football, which will be tasked with improving the way clubs are financially and operationally run. Further appointments will be announced in due course.

Derek Wilson, Chair of the SGSA Board, said: “Martyn is an outstanding appointment for the new regulator.  Over the last five years, he has led the transformation of the SGSA.  He has achieved this through his positive attitude, dedication and expertise in partnership-working.

“I am exceedingly grateful for the positive impact Martyn has had on the SGSA, and safety at sports grounds more widely. I look forward to seeing how he uses his skills and influence to introduce this important change to the football industry.”

Ken Scott MBE, the current Head of Inspectorate, will become Interim Chief Executive on Martyn’s departure.  A recruitment exercise has commenced to find a permanent replacement.

Martyn’s Law update

In the King’s Speech earlier this month, it was confirmed that Martyn’s Law would form part of the Government’s legislative programme. As ever, the SGSA will continue to monitor the progress and update the sector when there is further information available.

The Home Office has updated its Martyn’s Law factsheet which details what is known at this moment in time. There is also new Martyn’s Law landing page on ProtectUK which includes information on good security practices.

St Denis Convention ratified by the UK

On the 31 October, the UK formally ratified the St Denis Convention on an integrated safety, security and service approach at football matches and other sports events.

This Convention is the only internationally binding instrument to establish an integrated approach based on three interdependent pillars: safety, security and service. It provides measures based on the highest safety, security and service standards developed in Europe, and promotes co-operation between all public and private stakeholders, including supporters, in order to provide a safe, secure and welcoming environment at football matches and other sports events.

The UK is the 28th state to ratify the convention, which will formally enter into force in the UK on 1 December 2023.

Online course

To support the ratification, the Council of Europe and Liverpool University have produced a free online course to promote awareness and understanding of the requirements of the Convention. It is already being successfully used across Europe.

To find out more about the training, visit the Council of Europe website.

Safety Essentials guidance released

The SGSA has published a new Safety Essentials guidance which provides an introductory summary of the essentials of sports grounds safety.

It is not a comprehensive representation of all issues. However, it provides an overview of some of the fundamental principles of safety and where further information and tools can be found.

We support some of the largest sports grounds in the world, who have established safety processes and procedures in state-of-the-art facilities. But we also work with much smaller grounds, which operate on a much lower scale. Safety is equally important at all venues, whether large or small.

This guidance has been put together to provide an overview of safety at sports grounds. For the first time, we outline the five fundamental elements of safety, and provide an introductory explanation of what they mean. We also provide references to where more detailed and comprehensive information can be found, in our other guidance materials.

Safety Essentials (PDF)

Licence fee reform consultation

The SGSA licence fee reform consultation has now closed.  We are currently reviewing the responses before providing to the Government.  We will share a summary report of the findings in December.

The SGSA has recently consulted the football industry about its annual licence fee payable by grounds used in the Premier League and EFL. We are conducting this consultation on behalf of the DCMS.  Any change to the licence fee will be decided by Government.

The SGSA licence allows the admission of spectators into the ground to watch matches.  Without this licence, it would be an offence under the Football Spectators Act 1989 to admit spectators.  The cost of this licence was set at £100 in the early 1990s at the inception of the Football Licensing Authority, the SGSA’s predecessor. Since then, the licence fee has not changed.

This consultation asks the industry and other stakeholders for views on reforming the licence fee so that the cost of regulation is met directly by grounds.  At present, the SGSA is currently funded by taxpayer money, via the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The proposed licence fee covers SGSA’s regulatory activities only.  It does not cover any industry wide issues, which will continue to be supported by DCMS.  In addition, any advisory work conducted by the SGSA will continue to be paid for directly by clients.

The proposals outlined in the consultation are recommendations only.  The final decision on any change to the licence fee will be made by Government.

Consultation document

SGSA Licence fee reform consultation document (PDF)

The consultation document provides full information about the proposals, including:

  • Background to the licence fee
  • SGSA legal responsibilities and funding
  • Principles of reform
  • Options for apportioning costs of regulation
  • Implementation of reform

Preferred approach

Sections 5.7 to 5.12 of the consultation document outline the SGSA’s preferred method of licence fee reform.  This is based on the safe capacity for a ground, with grounds placed into bands of varying capacities, with a sliding fee scale under which larger grounds pay the most.  We have selected this as our preferred approach as it most closely relates to safety.  However, the document outlines other options which have been considered.

To illustrate the cost, we have outlined the fees, based on the cost of regulation for 2022-23.  This equates to a regulatory cost of approximately 72.5p per space (seat or standing accommodation) for 2022-23 – equivalent to around 3p per home match (based on 23 home matches). Full details, including what this would mean for grounds, is included in the consultation document.

Background information

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) was commissioned by the SGSA to undertake a review and provide support to assist in creating a robust, proportionate and transparent funding model that reflects the full cost of regulation of the safety of football grounds in England and Wales.  Read the CIPFA Regulatory Charging Report (PDF).

The Football Spectators Act 1989 was created to control the admission of spectators at designated football matches in England and Wales.  This is defined in the  Football Spectators (Designation of Football Matches in England and Wales) Order 2000 as matches taking place in international stadia and at Premier League / English Football League grounds.


On 5 October 2023, the SGSA held a webinar to provide an overview of the proposals and to answer questions and comments from the industry.

The webinar can be viewed at anytime on demand.

The slides used in this webinar are also available to view: 5 October Webinar Presentation Slides.

A second webinar was held on 31 October,  which outlined the responses to date and the potential SGSA response to the points raised.

The webinar can be viewed at anytime on demand.

The slides used in this webinar are also available to view: 31 October Webinar Presentation Slides.

Questions and answers

To support the consultation, we want to ensure that any questions and answers you may have are covered.  We have included some early questions below.  If you have any others, please contact the SGSA directly at

The Q&A will be updated as we progress through the consultation

Q1. The SGSA also regulates local authorities.  Why aren’t they being required to pay?

A1. The licence to admit spectators relates to grounds, not their local authorities.

The SGSA was established to improve spectator safety at football grounds used in the English leagues, working in partnership with the Local Authorities who certify these grounds. The SGSA does not therefore ‘regulate’ local authorities.  We oversee the way local authorities perform this critical function to ensure greater consistency and adoption of best practice.

Q2. Why is this happening now?  Why hasn’t the SGSA done this before?

A2. The timing of this change is outside of SGSA’s control.  Any change for the licence fee will be for Government to decide, not the SGSA.

The change is happening now because an independent review of the SGSA conducted in 2022 found that: “The £100 licence fee should be replaced by a flexible system of charging which reflects the full cost of regulation and enables taxpayer funding to be reduced.

In responding to the recommendation, the Government committed to working closely with the SGSA to consider the implications and practicalities of amending their existing funding model.  This consultation is informing these considerations.

 Q3. What will it mean for individual clubs?

A3. It is important to remember that SGSA licences grounds, not clubs.  In some cases, there may be no impact as the cost will be met by ground management.

In the majority of cases, however, clubs will pay a higher cost as a result of this change in order that their ground can admit spectators.  This is similar to the fees payable for alcohol or entertainment licenses.

Q4. Why should football pay to support SGSA’s work in other sports?

A4. This will not be the case.  The licence fee will cover the SGSA’s regulatory work only – that is, related to football grounds in the Premier League and EFL.

Other work, such as our standards setting on behalf of the industry, will be funded by Government’s grant-in-aid; and our advisory work will be paid for by clients.

Q5. What happens if all the consultation responses disagree with the proposals?

A5. The consultation asks for views on how best to implement this change.  Any constructive criticisms, comments and suggestions will be welcomed.

The consultation findings will be submitted to Government to inform its decision on any change to the licence fee.

The final decision on any change rests with Government, not the SGSA.

 Q6. Will this licence fee include any new fee for the new football financial regulator when it’s introduced?

A6. No.  The change to the licence fee refers solely to the SGSA licence.  The new football financial regulator is being implemented by DCMS, and any questions relating to the new regulator should be directed to DCMS.

It is important to remember that, unlike the proposed new regulator for English football, SGSA licences grounds, not the clubs who play football at these grounds.

Q7. What if a club refuses to pay?

A7. If a club/ground refuses to pay, a licence to admit spectators will not be issued.  This means that the ground will commit an offence if it admits spectators to watch a football match without an SGSA licence.

Q8. How is the SGSA currently financed?

A8. The SGSA is currently predominantly funded by grant-in-aid from DCMS.  Full information about the SGSA’s finance are published in its Annual Report and Accounts.

Impact assessments

As part of the consultation preparations, a number of impact assessments were carried out.  These are available to view below:

We welcome any comments you have on these impact assessments. Please email with your comments.

Licensed standing continues to improve safety

One year on from the introduction of licensed standing at football grounds, new research from the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) confirms the positive impact for fans and clubs.

The findings come as Newcastle United FC prepares to join the growing number of clubs offering licensed standing.  The new research found at least 18 grounds planned to offer standing accommodation within the next three years.

The evaluation, conducted independently by CFE Research, found that when barriers or rails are installed, forward movement is prevented which reduces the safety risks of fans falling on others around them. It also found:

  • Aisles and gangways were kept clearer, as fans were more aware of their space.
  • The infrastructure offered stability for fans who may be unsteady on their feet whilst standing for long periods of time.
  • A more positive relationship between stewards and fans.

Martyn Henderson OBE, Chief Executive of the SGSA, said: “We welcome the confirmation that licensed standing continues to have a positive impact on the safety of fans. Not only do fans now have the choice of whether to sit or stand at these grounds, the licensed standing areas offer an improved experience for all.”

There are nine grounds that offer licensed standing.  The evaluation concentrated on three of these grounds, and included interviews with the club and local police.

The Government made the historic change of policy last summer, following a trial at five early adopter clubs from January 2022 – Cardiff City FC, Chelsea FC, Manchester City FC, Manchester United FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC.  It was implemented following campaigns by fans and extensive research and consultation.

Clubs must meet strict criteria to offer licensed standing areas in their grounds.  The research found this continued to be reasonable and fit for purpose, and includes:

  • The necessary infrastructure – such as seats with barriers/independent barriers – which must be in both home and away sections.
  • Fans must be able to sit or stand in the licensed areas – the seats cannot be locked in the ‘up’ or ‘down’ position.
  • There must also be one seat/space per person.
  • The licensed standing areas must not impact the viewing standards or other fans, including disabled fans.

The SGSA will continue to monitor and evaluate the progress of standing, as more clubs become licensed to offer it to fans over the coming seasons.

Read the full research: Licensed standing in football stadia: Post-implementation evaluation – July 2023

Review of women’s football published

Recommendations for women’s football have been warmly welcomed by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) today, following the publication of an in-depth review carried out by former Lioness Karen Carney MBE.

The report – Raising the Bar – sets out 10 strategic recommendations, providing a roadmap to raising standards in the women’s game from grassroots to professional levels.  These include an extension of the SGSA’s safety licensing system to the Women’s Super League, along with developing a voluntary, self-regulatory model for the Championship.

Martyn Henderson OBE, Chief Executive of the SGSA, said: “The growth of women’s football over recent years has been thrilling to see. The recognition that this now needs to be matched with the appropriate processes, governance and investment is warmly welcomed.  Not only will this enhance the experience for fans, it also demonstrates this country’s commitment to being a leader for women’s football, both on and off the field.”

Since September 2019, the SGSA worked in partnership with the FA to support the safe growth of the women’s game.  This has been delivered on an advisory basis at no cost, based on our commitment to ensure everyone can enjoy live sport safely.

At present, there are 24 grounds that are used within the Women’s Super League.  Of these, 17 are already licensed by the SGSA to admit spectators, as they are also used in the men’s professional game.

The SGSA will support the Government, FA and others to consider how an appropriate and sustainable licensing model for the Women’s Super League, as well as proportionate standards for the Women’s Championships and lower steps in the women’s pyramid, could be developed.

The publication of the report is timely with the start of the Women’s World Cup next week.  The SGSA wishes the Lionesses the best of luck in their campaign!

Safe Standing Fan Engagement – Lincoln City FC Case Study

With Lincoln City Football Club being a Voluntary All-Seater ground, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) is keen to highlight the work the club has been doing to engage with fans on persistent standing as a case study of good practice in favour of licensed/safe standing to address spectator demand for such areas.

From the extensive technical research conducted, to the thorough engagement with fans, the club has been doing some great work to identify the need and amount of standing areas at the ground.

Lincoln City begun taking voluntary action in tackling the level of persistent standing occurring at the ground in order to improve safety and fan experience in their well-established ‘singing section’. The club also wanted to take proactive steps following SGSA’s ‘early adopter’ research of licensed standing areas in football stadia and the change in legislation in July 2022.

Above all, the club recognised the positive impact in taking innovative steps to invest in the grounds infrastructure to benefit fan safety and experience.

Whilst the club delved into the technical elements of installing barriers by consulting with SGSA’s Head of Inspectorate, Ken Scott MBE, and some of the ‘early adopter’ grounds for their particular experience, Lincoln City also put a lot of its focus on fan engagement.

To successfully engage with their supporters on the idea of installing barriers, the club took various carefully planned out methods of communicating. The approach was based around making sure the fans felt involved in each step of the club’s decision-making process. This was achieved in the following ways: 

  • Publishing the results of SGSA’s ‘early adopter’ studies to introduce the idea to supporters.
  • Openly discussing all ideas with the club’s Supporters Board.
  • Producing extensive fan surveys – From generic surveys sent to all fans, to surveys targeting specific areas of the ground directly and indirectly affected by the installation of barriers.
  • Organising public Fans Forums and using this platform to explain the plans and encouraged Q&A.
  • Providing a way for fans to anonymously feedback, ask questions or raise concerns through their website.
  • Analysing the feedback and organising targeted dialogue with specific supporters, addressing their concerns on a one-to-one basis.

During this engagement process, the club received overwhelming support for the installation of barriers. At the same time, the club encountered some challenges which they needed to overcome, most notably in terms of the perception and understanding of implementing safe standing in seated areas. Some supporters quite naturally referenced the historical tragedies which football has experienced, and questioned both the logic and to a degree, moral strategy, of what in some sections might be perceived as a step backwards.

Recognising this, the club saw an opportunity to allay such fears and misgivings around perceived crushing due to standing, by educating those supporters and focussing on the significant improvements in stadium safety management since those tragedies occurred.

Knowing the vast majority of supporters had an appetite for the introduction of safe standing, the club was able to move onto the more targeted consultation phase. At this stage the club reviewed feedback from those who expressed they do not wish to stand or are not able to stand.

During the consultation process the club identified specifically where everyone concerned would normally sit and whether they would be affected by the installation of barriers. Communication between club and fans was not an issue as most supporters were season ticket holders or a known member of their ‘singing section’.

Lincoln City was able to overcome the concerns raised by offering its supporters seat swaps in or out of the proposed standing areas, educating fans on the safety benefits with the ‘early adopter’ results and evidence from other clubs, and lastly, highlighting the improved fan experience that comes with offering supporters the option to stand at their ground.

The result of this consultation process is a project which will not only improve safety in critical areas of the stadium, but also enhance the matchday fan experience for many. And for any other stadium considering installing safe standing, Lincoln City has one piece of advice – invest in fan engagement and consult with supporters from the outset, let them be part of the decision-making process and take them on the journey with you.

Independent review of SGSA published

The Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) is “a great asset for the UK” according to the outcome of an independent review of the organisation carried out on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

The review, conducted as part of the Government’s programme of public bodies review, found that the SGSA “is seen nationally and internationally as a centre of excellence on sports ground safety, that punches well above its weight”, with scope to further strengthen aspects of the organisation to increase SGSA’s impact both domestically and globally.

Today, the Government has published its response to the review, stating its gratitude for the work the SGSA carries out and that the organisation is “regarded as a world leader in sports ground safety”.

The review identified 13 recommendations to further enhance and expand the SGSA.  These include:

  • Replacing the current £100 licence fee with a new charging system;
  • Identifying opportunities to improve the financial sustainability, including sharing legal, HR and data analysis resources with another organisation and being able to make a profit on advice commissioned from outside the UK;
  • Subject to an assessment of risk to fan safety, expanding the remit of the SGSA to cover the Women’s Super League and the National League;
  • Considering whether the SGSA should play a wider role in the regulation of stewarding at football matches; and
  • Considering if other sports should be required to seek advice from the SGSA and potentially expanding the remit of the SGSA beyond sport to other live events.

The Government’s response outlines its confidence in the SGSA, accepting all of the review’s recommendations whilst recognising that reform requires careful consideration and further detailed work.

Martyn Henderson OBE, Chief Executive of the SGSA, said: “I welcome this review and the Government’s positive response.  The SGSA is a great organisation which plays a hugely important role for fans of live sport and the implementation of these recommendations will further consolidate the UK’s position as world leaders in safety.”

The full report and Government response can be found at

New Board Members appointed to the SGSA

The Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) is pleased to confirm the appointment for four new Board members – Martin Esom, Alex Lacey, Bradley Pritchard and Jon Sellins.

The four new Board members replace Rimla Akhtar OBE, Susan Johnson MBE, Philip Kolvin KC and David Mackinnon.

All SGSA Board appointments are for a term of three years and are made by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Martin Esom is Chief Executive of Waltham Forest Council, a position he has held since 2010.  He sits on the Board of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as a Non-Executive Director and also Chairs the Board’s Audit and Risk Committee.  Martin is an environmental health officer by training, has a Masters Degree in Business Administration and holds a range of technical qualifications including Health and Safety and Acoustics & Noise Control.

Martin said: “I am absolutely delighted to have been appointed to the SGSA Board.  It offers the chance to use some of my knowledge for the good of spectators and the game.  I am really looking forward to going on site with inspectors and gain a real appreciation of what it is like to be on the front line.”

Alex Lacey is the Operations Director at Silverstone Circuits, with over 27 years’ experience of operating major sporting events.  She is a member of the Motorsport UK Race Committee and has played an active role in the Major Event Organisers Association for some years.

Alex said: “Having worked at the home of British motorsport for over 25 years, I have been fortunate to watch the sport and industry develop and grow into what it is today – an exciting, fast paced environment. My experience within not only the sporting field, but also the events industry, puts me in a unique position as a member of the SGSA Board. It is an extremely exciting opportunity and very much aligned with my personal and professional aspirations.”

Bradley Pritchard is a former professional footballer, having played for Charlton Athletic, Leyton Orient and Stevenage whilst in the Football League.  He continues to play non-league football for Lewes FC.  He is currently a member of the Chair’s Panel for The Football Association’s Judicial Panel and Exception’s Panel, as well as an Arbitrator Specialist member for the panel of arbitrators and mediators for Sport Resolutions.

Bradley said: “I am excited about the opportunity of being part of an organisation that can have such a huge impact on football as a regulator. However, for me the exciting part was not that it is a regulator, but rather, how it was able to make this impact.  Hopefully my experience as a professional footballer can add a different perspective to consider on spectator safety and other factors such as match day experiences.”

Jon Sellins has been involved in running large venues and major events for over 35 years. His career has included involvement at the Wembley Complex, Earls Court and Olympia, London 2012 Olympics and The Roundhouse in Camden.  Between June 2017 and June 2020 Jon was Group Operations director at The Football Association where he was responsible for the operation of both Wembley Stadium and The National Football Centre at St George’s Park.

Jon said: “I’ve been involved in running venues and events throughout my career and I am keen to put that knowledge and experience to good use. The SGSA is the perfect opportunity. I’m aware of the great work the organisation does and look forward to contributing in the future”.

Derek Wilson, Chair of the Board, said: “These appointments are great news for the SGSA.  They each bring a huge variety of experience and knowledge which will help drive the organisation forward in the coming years.  The importance of sports grounds safety remains a critical issue as the nature and scale of issues affecting sports grounds is changing. The Board plays an essential role in providing robust governance and strategic oversight and I know that Martin, Alex, Bradley and Jon will be exceptional assets to the organisation.”

To find out more about the new appointees, visit the Board page of the SGSA website.