Ruth Shaw, Chief Executive of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority shares her excitement about the opportunities and challenges which lie ahead for the SGSA.
Just over a year ago I became Chief Executive of the Football Licensing Authority (FLA). My predecessor (the founding CEO) loved the job so much that he took up the post as a three year secondment in 1991, and stayed until he retired in 2011! With the creation of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority on 1 November, any hopes I had of breaking his record have evaporated, but at least I can lay claim to being the FLA’s first female and last ever Chief Executive.
Since its inception two decades ago, the FLA has helped transform spectator safety in football grounds which has become a model for other grounds across the sporting landscape. Becoming the Sports Grounds Safety Authority has officially expanded our role, giving us extra powers to advise other sports (beyond football) and share our expertise overseas. The dedication and hard work of FLA staff and partners have laid the foundations for the reputation and credibility that the SGSA is now building on.
Some of the exciting possibilities our new remit throws open include working with UEFA on Euro 2012, working with World Cup hosts Brazil, Russia and Qatar, and with Olympic and Paralympic organising committees around the world. Back on home turf, we hope to collaborate with sports including rugby league and rugby union, cricket, horse-racing, motor-racing, golf and athletics. The recent decision to award the 2017 World Athletics Championships to the UK creates more opportunity for us to put our excellent track record in stadia safety to good use.
Every day, people all over the country work to ensure that sports fans can watch their team safely. From Accrington Stanley to Yeovil Town (and at plenty of grounds in between) the SGSA has a role to play. We have always been, and will remain, a light touch regulator in relation to football. Our ethos is to educate, inform and persuade, and we will continue to work in that way while fulfilling our statutory duties in relation to football.
The Green Guide benchmark
For other sports, we won’t have any regulatory role, instead we’ll be there to offer advice and guidance. Many of the sports we’ve already spoken to have excellent safety management arrangements in place, and most major sports grounds use our Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds as the touchstone for what they do. We now have a real opportunity to learn from them as well as share the information and experience we have.
Someone suggested that my biggest challenge in this role would be to avoid becoming a ‘safetycrat’. I’d never heard the term before, but apparently it describes the kind of government bureaucrat who believes it’s their job to protect citizens from themselves – pretentiously thinking they possess superior insight to the rest of the population.
I’m confident that we don’t, and won’t, fall into this trap. We want spectators at sports grounds to be safe, and we will continue to work with sports grounds, local authorities, and spectators to help to establish and maintain a safety culture. We can provide expertise, advice and guidance on physical infrastructure and safety management, but we recognise that ultimately, responsibility for safety lies at all times with ground management.
So I don’t think I’ll win any awards for safetycrat of the year, but perhaps I will still manage to be the longest serving Chief Executive of the SGSA!
Find out more
If you have any thoughts about how we can make the most of our expanded role and the new opportunities this presents, or you want to share good practice with other grounds then get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.
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Crowd at Lords photo by Mark Hillary on Flickr. Some rights reserved.