Interview with Sue Storey for Women's Sport Week

Sue Storey, Inspector, Sports Grounds Safety Authority, SGSA

Sue, tell us about your role at the SGSA.

I am an Inspector with the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, my football role covers the East Midlands, South Yorkshire and Humberside and I work with 12 football clubs to help them improve spectator safety, this also means I work with the local authorities and other partners connected to those clubs. I have the lead role for cricket within the SGSA and work closely with the ECB to improve safety and security across all 18 first-class counties and the MCC. I also undertake international development work to share the good practice from the UK, internationally.

In addition to my SGSA role, I am a board member for the County Sports Partnership Network (CSP). The CSP Network is a nationwide network of 45 County Sports Partnerships (CSPs) which are committed to Improving Lives by Growing Grassroots Sport and Physical Activity. Our goals are to;

  • Get 500,000 more adults regularly participating in sport
  • Reduce the number of adults that are inactive by 250,000
  • Get 1 million young people more active

This board role inspires me to use some of my time to encourage people, particularly women to reap the amazing benefits from sport and physical activity.  

My other equally challenging but far less glamorous role is being a mother to 2 sets of twins, who also lead very sporting lives.

How do you ensure spectators have a safe and enjoyable experience at sports grounds?

I work with football and cricket clubs to improve the safety culture. To do this I do match visits, safety audits and attend safety advisory group meetings. The key to success is building strong supportive relationship with clubs, local authorities and national sports governing bodies to improve spectator safety, to share good practice and support the safety operation. I see myself as a calm, supportive and positive friend to our stakeholders, who can be trusted to help improve safety for all spectators.

Why is it important people can enjoy going to sporting events?

There really is nothing quite like the atmosphere at a live sporting event - a full stadium, screaming fans, you can literally feel the atmosphere. For me it's extremely satisfying to know that I have played a part in helping those thousands of people enjoy the experience. I am lucky to experience live sport on a regular basis, not just through my work but through taking my children to a range of sporting events, some major some minor, but all of these events share the same passionate and enthusiastic spectators, all who should be able to enjoy watching sport safely.

What are the challenges you see for spectator safety?

Getting safety on the board agenda can be challenging, its often more desirable to spend money on players than on structural appraisals or additional safety staff. There is a risk of complacency around spectator safey as thankfully, there hasn't been a major safety disaster at a sports ground in the UK for 25 years. I often hear the phrase, ‘well nobody has been injured as a result of xxx since I have been here’.  2 phrases spring to mind when I hear this; ‘Complacency is the enemy of safety’ and ‘Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive’ and I am proud to say I am paranoid in this aspect!

What do you love about sport?

Sport changes lives, I see that in my role at the SGSA and though my board role with CSPN.  There are some fantastic examples of how sport can have that affect. Laura Trott became a cyclist because her mother took up cycling to lose weight, that decision by her mother has changed both of their lives beyond recognition. I love the community spirit that develops around sport, people involved in any capacity can be part of a community, whether it’s a football team, a stadium, a sports club or just cycling with friend or playing badminton socially. I have always been sporty, I'm so proud that my children have followed this ethos and are sporty too, of course this now means I spend more time watching and taxiing!

Why is Women’s Sport week important?

There have been lots of examples this week of inspirational women who are making a difference in sport, here is my experience from this week.

I took a day off on Tuesday to cycle with Kajsa Tylen, #ayearinthesaddle, Kajsa is currently attempting to beat the world record for the most miles cycled in a year by a woman. The women’s record for Furthest Distance Cycled in a Year was set 77 years ago; on January 1, 1938, a British woman called Billie Fleming set out to ride as far as she could in a year, in order to promote and inspire a healthy lifestyle for women. She rode every day, on a 3-speed road bike, and achieved an astounding 29,603 miles, often finishing the day giving a talk on the health benefits of cycling.

Kasja started her attempt on 1 January 2016 and is currently on target to beat the record as she has cycled 24,707 (as at today), she cycles every single day between 85 and 120 miles. I consider myself a keen cyclist and I cycled 100 miles with her on Tuesday.  I was tired and aching for 2 days!  She does that every single day, she has been in pain with cramps, muscle fatigue and sores virtually since the start, how she keeps going is completely amazing and totally inspirational. She asking that people support her but making a sweat pledge, a committment to do something this year, to make a promise by way of a goal; every bead of perspiration is your donation.

This is what Women Sport Week is all about, the totally amazing women in sport!