How to calculate the safe capacity of a sports ground?

The responsibility for calculating the safe capacity of a ground rests with the ground management. Where any part or parts of a ground are covered by a safety certificate issued by the local authority the capacity calculated by ground management should be reviewed by the local authority and if validated included in the safety certificate.

At the majority of sports grounds, the capacities of each section will be added together to establish the final capacity of the ground as a whole. The factors to be considered in determining the capacity of each section are:

The entry capacity – which is the number of people who can pass through all the turnstiles and other entry points serving the section, within a period of one hour.

The holding capacity – which is the number of people who can be safely accommodated in the viewing accommodation. In the case of seats this will be determined by the actual number of seats, less any that cannot be used safely (owing to seriously restricted views or their inadequate condition). In the case of a standing area this will be determined by a number of features including crush barrier strengths and layouts and areas which offer restricted views. In determining the holding capacity account also needs to be taken of the physical condition of the viewing accommodation – the (P) factor, and the safety management of the area – the (S) factor.

The exit capacity – which is the number of people who can safely exit the viewing accommodation under normal conditions

The emergency evacuation capacity – the emergency evacuation time will be set between 2.5 and 8 minutes based on a risk assessment of the viewing accommodation and its associated emergency evacuation routes. The emergency evacuation capacity is the number of people who can safely negotiate the emergency evacuation routes and reach a place of safety within that set time.

Whichever is the lower of the above four capacities is taken as the final capacity of that section of the ground. Once the final capacity of each section of the ground has been determined in this way they can be added together to determine the overall ground capacity.

Detailed advice and guidance on calculating entry, holding, exit and emergency evacuation capacity is given in the Chapter 2 of the “Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds



Reflections on the Hillsborough Inquest verdict

SGSA Chief Executive Karen Eyre-White reflects on the verdicts of the Hillsborough Inquests

Terrorism, Technology and Thinking – Key messages for Venue Safety

In this blog, Head of Inspectorate Ken Scott reflects on the challenges for modern stadiums.

Helping India deliver a successful U-17 World Cup

In 2017, the eyes of the footballing world focused on India as it hosted the FIFA Under-17 World Cup across six venues and cities. The SGSA contributed to this partnership and played a significant role in the success of the tournament.

What’s new in the 6th edition of the Green Guide?

The new Green Guide is launched in late 2018. This page details what is different from the 5th version. Further details is provided in the Guide itself.

View all Insights


Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds

The new edition of the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds is now available.

Government review of evidence relating to the all-seater policy

Government has recently announced that it will commission an external analysis of evidence relating to the all-seater policy. Its aim is that initial analysis work will be completed by the end of 2018.

View all News

Tools and resources

Historic Circulars

Historic Home Office and DCMS Circulars affecting football and sports grounds.

Standing in Seated Areas

In this paper we examine the nature and causes of spectators standing in seated areas at Premier and Football League grounds.

Safety Advisory Group – Terms of Reference Checklist

A checklist for making any changes to the SAG Terms of Reference as a result of the wider understanding of safety.

Safety Management

Our Safety Management guidance brings together good practice on safety personnel, safety management procedures, event management and preparing for incidents.

Safety Certificate Checklist

This checklist may be helpful for certifying authorities when checking safety certificates for possible changes as a result of the wider understanding of safety


Our Concourses document contains helpful information including advice on occupancy levels and floor space factors.


Reducing slip hazards on concourses

Advice and guidance on reducing slip hazards on concourses. with links to additional guidance via the Health and Safety Executive website.

Counter-terrorism in sports grounds

For a number of years the UK has been at a threat level of severe (an attack is highly likely) and ground management should have developed plans that are in place to provide protective security appropriate to that level.

Advice on Drones

You may be familiar with the scenes from the Partizan stadium during the Serbia v Albania Euro 2016 qualifying game, when a drone carrying a pro-Albanian flag landed on the pitch. The violence that ensued both on the pitch and in the stands is a reminder of how quickly situations can change.

What does Zone Ex mean?

In the planning, design and management of sports grounds it may be helpful to consider the circulation area in terms of zones.

What are P and S factors

The safe capacity of a sports ground should take account of both its physical condition and its safety management. These are known as the (P) factor and the (S) factor respectively.

When should the first annual inspection and structural appraisal be undertaken at a new, or recently completed, stadium?

It is usual that the safety certificate or operations manual will require ground management to obtain every 12 months , a report from a competent person that the structural elements have been inspected and found to be adequate.

What they're saying

“Fan safety at sports grounds is paramount. The world looks to us as an example of how to manage risks and improve safety records and this guide will continue to contribute to that legacy.”

Rt Hon Jeremy Wright MP, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in relation to the Green Guide