FAQs - Which events at a sports ground should be covered by the provisions of 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.

An image of the royal coat of arms.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.