An Update From The Chairman

Alan Coppin, SGSA Chairman

My first seven months with the SGSA has flown by and has been as stimulating and interesting as I had imagined and hoped it would.

When I first joined as Chair in April this year, I wanted to meet with all my new colleagues and as many of our key partners as possible and to hear for myself about the challenges and issues they faced. Since then, I have met with over 60 people from the football family, local authorities, sport and government. I have been to a number of matches, most recently at Milton Keynes when they played Charlton Athletic and seen our Inspectors in action. I attended the commemorations at Valley Parade to remember the victims of the Bradford fire, which was 30 years ago this year and it was a sombre reminder of the importance of the work that everyone does in keeping spectators safe. It also brought home to me how far the UK has come, thankfully, since that terrible fire and then the Hillsborough tragedy.

The consistent message that I heard at all my meetings was how important the work of the SGSA is. The organisation is viewed as world-class and is greatly respected for the expertise it provides and the way we work as partners in safety. The Green Guide, along with the SGSA’s other publications are essential and highly thought of.

Whilst the future of the organisation as an Arms Length Body (ALB) is secured, thanks to the work of the former Chair and Chief Executive, we cannot stand still, and we face challenges from increased scrutiny over public spending and another spending review later this year.

In July the Board, Inspectors and staff attended a two day strategy session where we set out a five year plan. We are looking to build on our expertise in a more commercial way, without losing focus on our core purpose - regulating football grounds in England and Wales and are currently discussing our plans with Government.

And whilst we are highly regarded where we have those relationships, I see there are opportunities to further spread the message of the good work we and other safety professionals are doing to ensure spectator safety remains at the top of the agenda. In September we launched a supplement to the Accessible Stadia guidance, and are pleased that the Premier League has made a commitment to meeting these standards by August 2017. Last month saw the release of the SGSA’s latest guidance Alternative Uses of Sports Grounds, a document that will help sports grounds and event organisers adapt their venue to safely host concerts and other events and we expect to announce a date for a 2nd spectator safety conference shortly.

We hope to commence an update of the Green Guide to ensure it remains relevant and reflects the changing needs of the industry and will look to expand our education activity and forge new alliances with academic institutions to further our purpose. We will strive to build and strengthen relationships with boards, senior leaders and industry representatives to ensure no stone is left unturned in our ambition to ensure all spectators have a safe and enjoyable experience at sports grounds.

It is clear to me that there is much passion and commitment for the work we are doing and I am proud to be the Chair of the SGSA, blessed with a team of experts who are dedicated to ensuring the safety of all spectators.

One of my first tasks as Chair was to recruit a Chief Executive. Karen Eyre-White joined us in July, her first day in post was at the strategy session. Karen is already making a valuable contribution to the important work of the SGSA. I would like to thank Rick Riding who, as Interim Chief Executive not only managed the organisation but also a new and incredibly inquisitive Chairman and I am grateful to him and for his continued support as both Karen and I settle into our new roles.

We are eager to embark on a new phase in our development and consolidate our position as a world leading organisation. I leave you with some words that have stuck with me from Lord Justice Taylor's Hillsborough Report 'complacency is the enemy of safety’ and I look forward to working with you on our journey to ensure we are never complacent about spectator safety.