Keeping structural checks and sports grounds inspections high on the agenda

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on sport over the last year.  Despite these challenges, ground management continues to have a responsibility to ensure any sports ground structures receive adequate inspections and appraisal of their structural integrity.

Owners of sports grounds should arrange a detailed structural inspection and appraisal periodically, carried out by a competent person to ensure that all structural elements are  adequate in the light of current circumstances and use.

Back in 1998, the Standing Committee on Structural Safety (SCOSS) recommended that sports grounds carry out a structural appraisal every 6 to 10 years quoting; “The period between structural appraisals could perhaps be related to the type of structure, number and condition of critical components and potential susceptibility to disproportionate collapse. A period of 6-10 years is likely to be appropriate for most large stadia structures.”  The Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds (Green Guide) reinforces this view.

Further, the general safety certificate should condition that at periods not exceeding 12 months the grounds safety management team provide written assurance that the structural elements have been inspected by a competent person and found to be adequate.

The certificate holder remains responsible for appointing suitably qualified persons to undertake the structural appraisal and other inspections and tests prescribed in the safety certificate or accompanying operations manual.  They should also make available to the local authority:

  • the records and certificates of safety systems; and
  • a building/structural maintenance report signed by an approved person(s).

The report should confirm that a complete inspection of the sports ground has been carried out, identifying any repair or maintenance work which is considered to be necessary.  This is to ensure that all structures are provided and maintained in accordance with current British Standards, Codes of Practice and/or relevant Guidance. Where any report submitted indicates that repair or maintenance works are necessary, it should be accompanied by a programme of works.

All sports grounds designated under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 are required to have a safety certificate which is reviewed annually by the Certifying Authority (Local Authority).

Under the provisions of Section 10B of the Act  and  the Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act 1987 Section 34, local authorities are required to undertake annual inspections of designated sports grounds and regulated stands in accordance with the guidance issued by the Secretary of State.  This is highlighted with Home Officer Circular 72/87 for designated grounds and Home Office Circular 97/88 for regulated standards.

The guidance requires local authorities to be satisfied that the inspections are carried out by a person or persons qualified for that purpose. The inspections are therefore usually carried out by a multi-disciplinary team which includes the council’s structural engineer, the council’s electrical engineer, the fire authority, the police authority, the ambulance authority, and the ground safety officer.

The inspection by the local authority is not intended to shift responsibility for spectator safety away from the certificate holder or to duplicate work that should be undertaken by, or on behalf of, the certificate holder. Instead it is designed to check that the certificate holder is complying with the provisions of the operations manual or the safety certificate conditions for properly maintaining the sports ground and its fittings.

With the impending return of spectators to sports grounds, the certifying authority must ensure the sports ground demonstrates reasonable levels of  safety and that all conditions contained within  the safety certificate are being adhered to. This should be done by inspection as recommended in the SGSA Guide to Certification. .

It is suggested that local authorities contact the ground management asking for confirmation that all the systems and services are fully operational and in a safe working order in readiness for the return of spectators

All plant and machinery and installations such as refrigeration units or water systems including hot and cold-water services, should be checked and serviced where appropriate to avoid issues such as  legionella.