History of the SGSA

The Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) was established in 2011, taking over from the Football Licensing Authority (FLA).  We continue to carry out the statutory functions under the Football Spectators Act 1989 in England and Wales.  The Sports Grounds Safety Authority Act 2011 expanded out advisory functions in relation to other sports and internationally.

The FLA was originally conceived as the body that would implement the Football Membership Scheme in response to the disaster at the Heysel Stadium in 1985. However, the Government shelved this in the light of Lord Justice Taylor’s Final Report on the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster of April 1989. Instead, the FLA was responsible for:

  • monitoring local authorities’ oversight of spectator safety at international, Premiership and Football League grounds; and
  • ensuring through a system of licensing that these grounds became all seated.

In 1992 the Government decided to allow clubs in the Football League Second and Third Divisions (now Leagues One and Two) to retain some standing accommodation, provided that this satisfied certain criteria. The SGSA continues to enforce this through our licences.

The stated goal of the FLA was to ensure that all spectators regardless of age, gender, ethnic origin, disability, or the team that they support are able to attend sports grounds in safety, comfort and security. In pursuing that goal the FLA was the catalyst for vast improvements both to stadia and the safety management of spectators.

Our work to date

That work has helped to ensure:

  • Seventy three of the 94 football grounds in England and Wales within our remit are now all-seated, with increased attendances and a wider demographic of supporters.
  • All grounds now employ competent Safety Officers to oversee the safety of spectators.
  • Through advice and persuasion, the FLA brought about a permanent change of safety culture whereby encouraging consistently high standards of safety at every Premiership, Football League and International football ground, with clubs and ground management taking responsibility for safety on their own initiative, rather than in response to requirements imposed by other bodies.
  • The FLA worked with the Sector Skills Council to develop nationally recognised spectator safety management qualifications and with the football authorities to develop a training syllabus. The great majority of the stewards on the books of Premier and Football League clubs are now trained, assessed and (at the very least) on the way to being qualified.
  • Spectator facilities designed and built in accordance with the FLA’s guidance on Accessible Stadia which seeks to promote how disabled spectators can enjoy both a clear view of the game and a choice of where to watch it from.
  • Perimeter fences which used to cage spectators in, and which still do in many grounds outside the UK, have long since been removed.
  • The FLA’s influence has extended into other sports by virtue of the Green Guide being applied to other stadia and events.