Safety certification for National League clubs

Safety certificates are issued by the local authority for the area in which the ground is situated. Depending on the capacity of the ground a safety certificate may cover the whole ground or just certain stands within the ground.

If a National League club has a ground capacity of less than 10,000 it is unlikely that the ground would have been designated under the provisions of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975 and therefore the only safety certificate(s) will be for any regulated stands within the ground.

When a National League club is promoted to the Football League the threshold for determining if the ground should be designated reduces from 10,000 to 5,000. If, when the club is promoted to the Football League the capacity of its ground is 5,000 or above and the ground is not already designated, the club should liaise with the local authority to arrange for an application to be made to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to designate the ground. Similarly where a club is promoted with a ground capacity of less than 5,000 and the capacity is subsequently increased to 5,000 in line with the Football League ground grading requirements an application for designation should be made.

Following designation of the ground the club will need to make an application to the local authority for a safety certificate. Where a certificate is already in place a local authority should review the certificate to ensure the capacity and the terms and conditions remain appropriate. A similar review should be carried out at least every 12 months, or after any changes or safety related incidents at the ground.

When a club is promoted to the Football League the club and local authority should agree a timetable to move to a new style risk based safety certificate which places responsibility on the club to produce an operations manual showing how it intends to provide for the reasonable safety of spectators.

Advice on risk based safety certificates is contained in the SGSA’s publication Guidance to Safety Certification of Sports Grounds.

Advice on developing an operations manual is contained in Safety Management published by the SGSA.