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FSOA response to PGMOL regarding Lightning Strike

Dear David


Section 19 – Protocol for managing Pitch Inspections, Postponements and Abandonments

I refer to your recent Directive regarding suspension of play in the event of electrical storms or other extreme weather condition. The theme of the Directive does not cause me any concern but what does concern me and the membership of the Football Safety Officers Association is that part of the Directive which states:

‘In this circumstance, player and spectator safety should be considered in conjunction with the Match Commander or Safety Officer’.

By implication I am presuming the term ‘Match Commander’ means the senior police officer present at the event and the wording means the Match Commander will take precedence over the Safety Officer.

I do not intend to insult you by quoting chapter and verse the current safety at sports grounds legislation and guidance as to who has responsibility for Stadium and Spectator safety on a match day. I would have thought that immediately after the publication of the Report of the Hillsborough Independent Panel that no one would have to be reminded that the legal responsibility for the safety of spectators’ lies at all times with the ground management. This responsibility for spectator safety is not delegated to the police and is clearly spelled out in the Club Safety Certificate and the Statements of Intent between Clubs and the Police.

Club owners delegate the match day safety responsibilities to their Safety Officers and since the Association was formed in 1992 our members have diligently, effectively and competently discharged their safety responsibilities. In the 2010/11 season 51% of all matches in the Premier League, Championship and Leagues 1 and 2 was ‘Police Free’ (Home Office Statistics on Football-Related Arrests and Banning Orders). In the lower leagues this % increases dramatically with very few matches in these Leagues having any police presence.

My argument therefore is that the term Match Commander is more applicable to the Safety Officer than the Police but it is not a term I would advocate for either. The directive should in fact have referred to either ‘The senior police officer present’ or the ‘Police Commander’.

The more appropriate wording of this section of the directive should be:

‘In this circumstance player and spectator safety should be considered by the Safety Officer and if the Police are present with the senior police officer’.

You may therefore wish to give consideration to amending the Directive accordingly.

Yours sincerely,

John Newsham.

Chairman. FSOA.

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