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Health and safety body warns against reintroduction of football terracing

Sports fans should be seated to watch games at large stadia, a leading health and safety body has warned, as a new poll revealed one in three people had been caught up in a crowd surge at a major sporting or music event.

Of the 3,000 surveyed by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), 34% said they had experienced a crowd surge or collapse – where people push forward en masse.

As the debate continues surrounding the reintroduction of terracing at top-flight football grounds, IOSH said terraces should not be reintroduced in Championship and Premier League football stadia - a call that is backed by the Hillsborough Family Support Group.

Nearly two thirds who took part in the poll said that the presence of stewards, police officers and security guards had put their minds at ease. But the recommended NVQ level two standard or equivalent for safety training of stewards at sports grounds remains optional in the UK, as set out in the industry’s Green Guide. IOSH now wants to see this training made compulsory.

Findings from the Institution’s poll – a wide-ranging survey on crowd control at major sports and music events – were published at the launch of IOSH’s new Sports Grounds and Events Group at Wembley stadium on 22 February.

“Safe seating should be provided wherever possible, instead of standing areas, to prevent any chance of crowd surges,” said Group chair John Holden. “While smaller terraces may pose less of a risk, it’s a known fact that it’s safer to sit than stand, especially where large numbers of people are in the same area. By allowing people to sit down they have their own safety-zone in which they can safely support their team without the threat of being pushed, trampled on or crushed.

”Stewards, supervisors and safety officers need to be trained to the relevant standards in crowd safety management to help ensure accidents don’t happen.

“They spend enough money on players, football clubs – and other sports clubs for that matter – should not be cutting corners with the safety of their supporters.”

Only 43% interviewed in the poll said enough had been done to improve health and safety in sports stadia since the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, in which 96 football fans died.

At the end of December it was announced that the Scottish Premier League had been given the green light to pilot safe-standing areas within their stadia.

“This is a big decision to have made and safety needs to remain paramount,” Mr Holden added.

“Since the banning of terraces in the Championship and Premier League, there have been no reoccurrences, thank goodness, of the devastating scenes we saw during the football disasters of the 80s.

“Where terraces exist, stadium and health and safety managers, need to ensure they’re designed to the specifications set-out in the industry’s Green Guide - it’s vital that these terraces are maintained to the highest possible standard, to ensure spectators aren’t exposed to unnecessary risk.”

In 1989, 96 people were killed and 766 injured at Sheffield Wednesday’s football ground as a result of poor crowd control among other factors. The disaster lead to the Taylor report and terracing being banned from larger football stadia.

The Hillsborough Family Support Group – families of a number of the victims of the disaster – believes that “under no circumstances” should terracing be reintroduced.

Margaret Aspinall, chair of the Hillsborough Family Support Group, who lost her 18-year-old son James in the tragedy, said: “There should be no terracing brought back to English League football. We’ve moved on since the 80s when football fans were treated like cattle. Fans feel safer and families can go to games, and be 99.9% certain they will go home safe – the legacy left behind by the deaths at Hillsborough is everyone’s safety.”

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