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Safety certification

The Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 introduced a system of safety certification of sports grounds by local authorities. 

The Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 (the 1975 Act) introduced a system of safety certification of sports grounds by local authorities. 

A safety certificate sets the permitted capacity for a sports ground together with the detailed terms and conditions with which the ground management must comply in order to operate the sports ground at its permitted capacity.

Under the 1975 Act, a local authority is required to issue a safety certificate to a designated sports ground or to a regulated stand at a non-designated ground.

Designated grounds

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport may designate any sports ground which in their opinion has accommodation for more than 10,000 spectators, or 5,000 spectators in the case of Premiership or Football League grounds in England and Wales.

The Secretary of State will normally be aware of major new sports grounds under construction but may not always have been informed of developments that might increase the capacity of an existing sports ground above the threshold for designation.

It is therefore incumbent upon the local authority to notify the Secretary of State of any sports ground likely to require designation. It should give at least 10 weeks’ notice, so that the Secretary of State has sufficient time to be satisfied that the sports ground meets the criteria. As part of this process, the Secretary of State will formally consult the local authority, the sports ground owner, the emergency services and, where it will have a statutory role, the SGSA.

The notification to the Secretary of State should include the proposed capacity of the sports ground, together with its full postal address as soon as this is known. While this may appear pedantic, and can be difficult to supply for new sports grounds where the precise address has not been fixed, it is the only certain means of identification. While the name of the sports ground may change, the postal address rarely does.

The designation order remains in force unless or until formally revoked by the Secretary of State. If a designated sports ground is demolished or is permanently modified, so as to reduce the capacity below the threshold, the local authority should formally notify the Secretary of State and request that it be de-designated.

Should the local authority not do so, the certificate holder may apply directly to the Secretary of State. This can be done directly via email: or by post: Sport Team, Department for Culture, Media & Sport, 1 Horseguards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ.

If a Football League Two club is relegated to the National League and thereby falls outside the threshold, the same de-designation processes apply.

Regulated stands

A regulated stand is any covered stand with accommodation for 500 or more spectators, whether seated or standing.

A local authority is required to determine whether any, and if so which, of the stands at sports grounds within its area are regulated stands.

Home Office Circular 97/1988 gives detailed statutory guidance on how to determine whether or not a stand provides accommodation for 500 or more spectators. For the precise details local authorities should refer to the Circular. In brief the local authority should count:

  • the number of individual seats and / or marked places on bench seats;
  • the number of places available on bench seating allowing 530mm per person and disregarding any shorter lengths left over;
  • the number of spectators who can be accommodated on a terraced or sloped viewing area at a rate of 2.7 per square metre after disregarding gangways, stairways and landings; and
  • the number of spectators who can be accommodated in the front two metres of a flat standing area at a rate of 2.7 per square metre.

This methodology should be used only for determining whether the stand in question should be a regulated stand. Its safe capacity does not depend only on the amount of accommodation available.

When calculating the permitted capacity for inclusion in the safety certificate, the local authority should follow the methodology set out in the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds. This may well result in a substantially lower capacity, which may even fall below 500.

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Model safety certificate

The fundamental purpose of the safety certificate is to set the maximum capacity or number of people that may be safely accommodated at the ground. In

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