New south stand safety requirements
The certification process of the Safety of Sports Ground (NI) Order will come into operation at Windsor Park in early October 2010. All football, rugby and Gaelic clubs with a ground capacity of over 5000 spectators are ‘designated‘, so that they must conform to the conditions laid down by the ‘Order’ to enable events and matches to take place at their grounds. All stands seating over 500 people within these grounds are ‘regulated’ and subject to certain conditions. The objective is to ensure that spectator safety is paramount and failure by clubs to comply with the legislation will result in a user restriction and a reduction in the holding capacity of the ground. Linfield FC must fully comply as maximum capacity is required for international matches and major fixtures.
The issue of a Safety Certificate to Windsor Park by the Belfast City Council Environment Health Department follows inspection and assessment of the stadium with respect to the ‘P’ factor, based on the physical condition of each element in the ground, for example, stands, turnstiles, control room, first aid, environs etc., and the ‘S’ factor based on the quality of the safety management in place for the entirety of the ground. The maximum score is one for each factor. A ‘P’ factor score of 0.5 in a stand would reduce the capacity of that stand only, but a score of 0.5 in the ‘S’ factor would reduce the capacity of the entire ground by half.
Spectators will notice ‘P’ factor changes already have taken place such as a new roof to the North Stand, forward evacuation points created in both the Kop and North Stand lower decks, re-profiling the perimeter of the pitch in front of these stands to ensure proper sight lines, improved step markings and so on.
The age and wooden construction of a large part of the South Stand makes a ‘P’ factor of one impossible mainly due to the increased fire risk and this has led to a reduced capacity in this stand to 1686 seats maximum. Seats will have to be put out of use and this ‘decommissioning’ will be predominantly in the wooden section of the stand. The concrete section will have a very minimal reduction. The major loss will be evident through reduction in rear seating rows of the wooden section, widening of some gangways and through a closure of areas where the distance to a gangway exceeds the maximum length under present fire safety regulations. Decommissioned seats will be fixed in an upright position and covered. Decommissioned seats will be fixed in an upright position and covered over. This loss of around 1000 seats will be compensated at international matches by temporary seating for 1780 placed in the railway area with new turnstiles and toilets and around 1400 seats in front of the South Stand, including a new disabled persons section.
Admission to the South Stand has to limited by a clear counting system and the only practical way to administer this at present is by issuing tickets at the turnstiles on match day. These will then be handed to a steward on entrance to the stand. On exiting for example at half time a ticket will be handed back by the steward and will be collected again on re-entry. In this way the stand capacity cannot be exceeded. The restriction of spectators to this stand will be greatly helped by an understanding from all as to the necessary reasons for the limitation.
A major overhaul of the Club Safety Management Systems has been ongoing for the past year and the Club has achieved a provisional ‘S’ factor of one after submission of documents and inspection by the licencing body. Linfield FC Stewards have attended the new SNI Steward Training course which replaces their previous qualifications and both Spartacus and Scrutini personnel will also have this training. The Linfield Safety Officer, Gary Steele has additional SNI Safety Officer Training which updates his current qualifications. He has also undertaken visits to other grounds in NI and GB to observe their Safety Management plans. Linfield Football Club is committed to making Windsor Park a safe and friendly environment where all spectators can come to enjoy a match. Please help the Management Committee to achieve this by supporting the Stewards at all times as their job is to ensure your safety.