Football Spectators Act 1989

The Football Spectators Act 1989 was created to control the admissions 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.

The Football Licensing Authority (now the Sports Grounds Safety Authority) was established under this legislation to issue licences to admit spectators to designated matches, and to oversee local authorities’ safety certification functions at international stadia and Premier League / English Football League grounds in England and Wales.

Summary of SGSA Powers

Section of 1989 Act
Summary of sections currently in force
S9 (1)
Makes it a criminal offence for a club to admit spectators to a ground to watch a designated football match without a licence. The offence is punishable by an unlimited fine in the Magistrates’ or Crown Court. (The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 abolished the upper limit on fines in the Magistrates’ Court.)
S10(1)
SGSA may grant a licence to admit spectators to any premises for the purpose of watching a football match at the ground.
S10(2)
Licence application form and associated fee is determined by the Secretary of State.
S10(3)(a-c)
SGSA cannot refuse to grant a licence without notifying the applicant in writing of the proposed refusal and the grounds for it, and giving the applicant the opportunity to make a representation within 28 days beginning from the service of notice. The SGSA must take the applicant’s representations into account in making its decision.
S10(5)
The licence to admit spectators must be in writing and include terms and conditions that SGSA considers appropriate, and any conditions that the Secretary of State directs SGSA to include in relation to the seating of spectators (see also Section 11 below).
S10(8a-b)
A condition of every licence includes that the SGSA can enter the premises at any reasonable time, to make an inspection of the premises and such inquiries relating to them as they consider necessary for the purpose of admitting such licence.
S10(10)&(11)
The SGSA may at any time by notice in writing to the licence holder, vary the terms and conditions of the licence. But must notify the licence holder in writing of the proposed changes, give them 21 days to make representations, and take those representations into account in making a decision to vary the licence.
S10(12)
SGSA shall have regard to certain matters when deciding whether to issue a licence, including: S10 (12)(c) – whether the premises, equipment provided, procedures and other arrangements used at the premises are reasonably required to prevent the commission or minimise the likelihood of an offence; and, S10 (12)(d) – any other considerations that the Secretary of State deems necessary.
S10(13)
Makes it a criminal offence for a club to breach the terms of its licence. The offence is punishable by an unlimited fine in the Magistrates’ or Crown Court.
S24(1)
Club owners, directors and senior managers will be personally liable for fines (or potentially imprisonment) if the club breaches its licence condition with that person’s consent, connivance or neglect.
S11(1)
The Secretary of State may, by order, direct SGSA to include conditions imposing requirements in relation to the seating of spectators. And, SGSA must comply with such a direction.
Note: The Secretary of State has done so, through the Football Spectators (Seating) Order 1994, and subsequently as necessary as new grounds are built and/or grounds are in the top two tiers of professional football in England and Wales.  This is the mechanism for enforcing the Government’s all-seater policy.
S11 (4)
Before giving a direction under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult the SGSA who may make recommendations to him.
S11(5)
The SGSA shall not make any recommendations to the Secretary of State (under S11 (4)) without first consulting the local authority.
S12 (1-3)
SGSA has powers to revoke or suspend a licence for such period as they consider appropriate, having regard to the matters detailed in S10(12)(a – c).
S12(4)
The SGSA must (unless in the circumstances detailed in S12(5) below) notify the licence holder in writing of any proposals to revoke or suspend a licence, and the reasons for such action.  The licence holder must have an opportunity to appeal or make a representation within 21 days, and SGSA must take account of any appeal/representation when making a decision to suspend/revoke the licence.
S12(5)
If SGSA is satisfied that ‘the urgency of the case so requires’, the authority can suspend a licence without first observing the requirements in S12(4), but must as soon as practicable notify the licence holder of the reasons for the suspension.

 

SGSA Oversight of Local Authority

 

Section of 1989 Act
Summary of sections currently in force
S13(1)
SGSA has the function of keeping under review the discharge of local authorities’ safety certification responsibilities under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 (‘the 1975 Act’) at which designated football matches are played.   
S13(2)
SGSA may by notice in writing to a local authority require them to include in any safety certificate terms or conditions which are specified in the notice, and it shall be the duty of the local authority to comply with the requirements.
This is not restricted to football matches and can include any activities undertaken at the ground.
The local authority has no right of appeal against the SGSA’s notice to include terms and conditions in the safety certificate (S13(8)).
S13(6)
Gives Inspectors appointed by the SGSA the powers to enter a sports ground at which designated football matches are played, make inspectors of such a sports ground, and examine the safety certificate and any records kept under the 1975 Act.
S13(7)
SGSA may request in writing to the local authority to supply information relating to the discharge by the local authority of the functions under the 1975 Act, and the local authority must comply with such a request.