A Year On – The Chair’s Reflections

Alan Coppin (second left), Chairman of the SGSA & Keith Sears (second right) SGSA Inspector picture with officials from Wycombe Wanderers Football Club

I am assured that there was nothing intentional in the timing of my appointment at the SGSA last year on the 1st April, April Fool’s Day! Here we are, a full year on and it seems appropriate to reflect on the last 12 months and look forward to the next.

I have really enjoyed working within a world class organisation, the photo was taken with the Board of Wycombe Wanderers and Keith Sears, an inspector who has been with the organisation since the beginning, when we visited Adams Park on Good Friday for the match with Mansfield Town. The Board showed a real commitment to spectator safety and an understanding that we must not become complacent about this important matter. 

My first year has flown by, it started with preparation of our new 5 year strategy in July, which was approved by the Secretary of State as part of the Autumn Spending Review. I am fortunate to have inherited such a loyal and dedicated Inspectorate and staff and to have recruited Karen Eyre-White as Chief Executive to lead the team and implementation of this strategy with such energy and skill.

Brendon Batson retired from the Board in January after making a major contribution to the Authority during his 9 years of service. I’d like to thank him for his commitment to the organisation over this time. One of my tasks over the winter was to help recruit four new board members and I was delighted to welcome Joyce Cook, Susan Johnson, Philip Kolvin and David Mackinnon to their first board meeting in February following their appointment by the Secretary of State. I have no doubt that this powerful board will greatly assist in the achievement of our strategic objectives.

The DCMS Sports Strategy was published in December and included a commitment to enabling the SGSA to take a more formal role in helping sports grounds reach the required standards for accessibility. We are currently working with the department to define the scope of our involvement in helping sports grounds with this important work.  

Next month we stage our 2nd Annual Conference at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. The event will bring together over 200 professionals from the spectator safety community to discuss the current and future challenges for the sector, on theme of “Spectator Safety in a Changing World”. The event is now fully booked, but we will share the outcomes from the day for those that are not able to attend.

The Hillsborough inquests are coming to a close as the coroner completes his summing up from the last two years. We are following the inquests and working with partners to review any safety related outcomes.

Looking further forward, we are eager to deliver the other important strands of our strategy and continue to share our expertise with other sports and countries. We are exploring opportunities to develop funding streams for the organisation whilst not forgetting our core regulatory role in football.

We have made excellent progress over the past year, but there is still plenty to do as we deliver our purpose to ensure all spectators can watch sport in safety. We look forward to working with you all to do that over the next year.