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Sports grounds to be forced to take on ‘significant’ public safety commitments

Council to write to Department for help for those affected by "

Sports grounds are expected to be shouldered with greater responsibilities when it comes to ensuring public safety – including in the event of terrorist threats.

And the Department for Communities is to be asked to support those who will be affected by the “significant changes” on the horizon.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s environment committee recommended writing to DfI seeking help as the proposed changes are currently out to consultation.

The Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds is recognised as the primary technical blueprint by ground management and regulatory authorities to inform safety at sports grounds.

In Northern Ireland, it is the Department for Communities’ responsibility to provide guidance under Article 22 of the Safety of Sports Grounds (NI) Order 2006.

The current technical guidance in Northern Ireland is known as the ‘Red Guide’ and was issued in 2007.

But now a more extensive edition is on the way.

The 6th edition of the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds is due to be published in the summer and the Department for Communities is expected to adopt it and replace the previous ‘Red Guide’.

This edition provides guidance for all sporting venues and will also apply to England and Wales.

A fundamental principle of the revised guide is that responsibility for all people lies at all times with the ground management.

In this new edition, management responsibility extends to all people present at the sports grounds, including members of staff, media personnel and so on –  not just spectators – and provides new guidance on the circulation and movement of spectators outside the sports ground, both before and after an event.

The environment committee, in a report, is informed: “The revised guide takes into account the heightened awareness of security and provides additional updated guidance on issues such as terrorist threats and contingencies such as lockdown and evacuation.

“It also recognises the greater use of fire engineering and the role of digital technology to apply good practice in terms of safety, security and service levels in the design and management of grounds.”

A regional technical sub group of councils who implement safety at sports grounds are currently considering the detailed content of the new guide document.

Councillors have been told it is appropriate the sports ground safety “reflects best practice, is current and consistent across UK, and that any sports grounds structures are of the highest and safest quality”.

But the report to committee highlights: “It is fundamental that the DfC provides support and assistance, firstly to council as the enforcing authority for The Safety at Sports Grounds (NI) Order 2006, and secondly, through the governing bodies for sport, to sporting venues across the borough to facilitate the transition to the revised 6th edition guidance.”

The committee agreed that council should write to the Department and request it considers and sets out measures to support those sports grounds affected by the potential impact of the “significant additional safety measures” if it agrees to adopt the new guide.

Consultation on the sports grounds safety guidance will end on May 24.

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