Safety certificate FAQs
What events are covered by a safety certificate?
The need to maximise revenue has led to many sports grounds being used for a variety of purposes beyond the sport for which they were originally designed. This has led to a number of local authorities questioning which events should be covered by the provisions of a safety certificate.
The SGSA does not consider that it was intended that all events held in any part of a designated sports ground to which the public are admitted are required to be specified in a sports ground safety certificate issued under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 (1975 Act).
Section 2(1) of the 1975 Act provides that:
“A safety certificate shall contain such terms and conditions as the local authority consider necessary or expedient to secure the reasonable safety at the sports ground when it is in use for the specified activity or activities ….”
The Act does not define what can be included as a specified activity. However, section 12(1)(b) provides that it is an offence if:
“when a general safety certificate is in operation in respect of a sports ground spectators are admitted to a sports ground on an occasion when it is used for an activity to which neither the general safety certificate nor a special safety certificate relates”
and in the interpretations at section 17 “spectator” is defined as “any person occupying accommodation provided for spectators at a sports ground”.
The SGSA has therefore always taken the view, based on sections 12(1)(b) and 17, that if persons are using the terracing or seating decks to view an activity at the sports ground that activity should be specified in either the general safety certificate or a special safety certificate. So, for example, a firework display which is to be viewed by spectators from the stands, a religious festival where an altar/stage is erected on the pitch and those attending sit in the stands, or a concert which is viewed by spectators from the pitch and the stands would in our view need to be included as specified activities as those admitted to the sports grounds would fall within the definition of a spectator as they are “occupying accommodation provided for spectators at a sports ground”.
Accommodation is not defined in the 1975 Act. However, the ordinary meaning of “accommodation”within the context of the Act suggests a contained, organised viewing area. Therefore it might not always be the case that a safety certificate will only be required for those events for which people occupy existing standing terraces or seating decks to view the activity.
For example if the existing standing terraces or seating decks are not used to view the activity, but instead another part of the sports ground is modified, for example by the installation of temporary structures, from which spectators will view the event, it should be considered a specified activity which will need to be covered by a safety certificate.
How must changes to the safety certificate be advertised?
The advertising of changes to safety certificates is a legal requirement imposed on local authorities under the provisions of Safety of Sports Grounds Regulations 1987 and the Safety of Places of Sport Regulations 1988.
As those regulations were drafted before the introduction of the internet the SGSA asked DCMS if local authorities would be able to discharge their statutory obligation to advertise changes to safety certificates on their web sites. The department’s legal advisor responded advising that:
“As soon after a local authority makes a decision to issue, amend, or refusal to amend or replace a safety certificate, it is required under Regulation 5(5) of the 1987 Regulations to publish “in a newspaper circulating in the locality of the sports ground to which the safety certificate relates a notice setting out that decision”.
Accordingly, as the law stands, the notice must be published in the local paper to be effective. However, there is no reason in principle why the local authority could not publish the notice on their website but it must be in addition to publishing the notice in the local paper rather as an alternative.
Does the requirement to advertise changes to safety certificates extend to advertising changes made to an operations manual?
Under the provisions of the Safety of Sports Grounds Regulations 1987 and the Safety of Places of Sport Regulations 1988 local authorities are required to advertise changes made to safety certificates. A new style safety certificate will place a requirement on the holder to produce an operations manual, to adhere to it and to notify the local authority of any changes to it.
However, while the holder may be required to keep a copy of the operations manual with the safety certificate or alternatively the manual may be appended to the certificate, it does not actually form part of the certificate. Therefore changes to the operations manual do not have to be advertised in the same way as changes to the conditions in the certificate.
Should a safety certificate include a requirement for the holder to produce a traffic management plan?
Section 2(1) of the Safety of Sports grounds act 1975 empowers the certifying authority to include in the safety certificate “such terms and conditions as the local authority considers necessary or expedient to secure reasonable safety at the sports ground……” In this context the SGSA has always understood that “at the ground” refers to the curtilage of the ground. Therefore a condition could not be inserted into a safety certificate to ensure the safety of spectators before they have entered, or once they have left, the curtilage.
A safety certificate cannot impose conditions on the certificate holder on issues over which he has no control, for example areas outside the curtilage of the ground. A safety certificate could not therefore impose a requirement on the holder to produce a traffic management plan for a public highway adjacent to the ground. However, if the lack of effective traffic management on that highway prejudices the reasonable safety of spectators while they are within the curtilage of the ground appropriate account should be taken of the issue in determining the capacity of the ground. While a safety certificate cannot impose a requirement for the holder to produce a traffic management plan for areas outside the curtilage there is nothing to prevent ground management from developing such a plan as a means of mitigating any reduction in capacity.
At grounds where spectators and vehicles are present within the curtilage of the ground the certificate holder should be required to produce an on-site traffic management plan. In developing the plan ground management should identify the hazards associated with vehicular movements within confined spaces where there are large numbers of spectators, and the steps to be taken to mitigate them. Further advice on the issues to be considered in developing traffic management plan is available in Sports Grounds and Stadia Guide No 4 “Safety Management” and the HSE publication “Workplace Transport Safety”.