With thanks to Rob Harmer, a HCST representative on Hull City AFC’s (late?) Fans’ Working Group committee, here are the minutes of the latest Safety Advisory Group meeting…
|HULL CITY COUNCILStreetscene Services
Sports Ground Safety Advisory Group Meeting
Tuesday 1st July 2016
MINUTES OF MEETING
Pete Curry PC – Hull City Council Sports Ground Safety (Chair)
Joel Bridger Hull City Council Sport Ground Safety
Glenn Halsey – Hull City Council Building Control
John Taylor – Hull City Council Health and Safety
Sue Storey – SGSA
Paul Cresswell PCr – Humberside Police
Garry Neal – Humberside Police
Tracey Bradley – Humberside Police
Chris Fothergill – Yorkshire Ambulance Service
John Broadley – Humberside Fire & Rescue
Sarah Nicholson – Hull FC
Steve Bywood – Hull Kingston Rovers
Graham Flowers – Hull Kingston Rovers
James Deacon – KC Stadium Management Company
Dave Gregory – KC Stadium Management Company
James Mooney – Hull City Tigers [sic]
Rob Harmer – Representative of Hull City Fans Working Group
Lisa Jewitt – Chairman FC Voices
Apologies: Mike Smith, Mark Walster, Phil Parker, Khaled Choudhury
|AGENDA ITEM||BUSINESS|| ACTION
Introductions were made by all present. Before the meeting got underway The Chair explained that charterhouse rules applied to any of the potentially sensitive information discussed at the meeting. The Chair explained that any commercially sensitive items that anyone would like to raise could be discussed at the end of the meeting.
The Chair welcomed Rob Harmer (representative of Hull City Fans Working Group) and Lisa Jewitt (Chairwoman of FC Voices) again and for the benefit of clarity he explained the key objectives of the Safety Advisory Group and the terms of their invitation.
|2.|| Previous Minutes
The minutes for the meeting were agreed as true record.
|3.|| Matters Arising
4. Safety Certificate charges & Special Safety Certificates
(adoption of new style of safety certification)
The Chair explained how the recently departing Safety Officer, Sue Watson had created a new operational plan and how this documentation was intended to be used to move over to the new style of safety certificate, he expressed his satisfaction with this intention but continued to add that the plan required careful reviewing before a transfer of certification can be agreed, he stated how after briefly scanning through the document it looked of good quality, he continued to add that when the new Safety Officer was settled in his role and had, had a chance to review/influence the plan he would be happy for the transfer to take place.
It was discussed that the new style certification document was essentially a “live” document and subject to change when the need arises, to that end it was agreed that electronic access through a “drop box” or similar would be ideal to ensure that interested parties were reading current, up to date information and how members can be advised by email whenever any document is revised. JB mentioned how LA IT security policy forbids access to drop box but that he will request that a dispensation can be made in this instance. JD explained how he will arrange a drop box account and make access available to those who need it. SS expressed her pleasure that the SAG and SMC were looking to embrace the risk based safety certificate and would be happy to review the current documentation to ensure that it is fit for purpose. JD thanked SS for this offer and confirmed that he would provide her with a hard copy in the meantime until a drop box account is set up.
9. Stadium updated plans
JD confirmed that all plans had now been updated and that up to date copies would also be made available on drop box.
10. Walton Street car park condition, lighting and traffic lights
JD informed members that a survey had recently been conducted and how the condition of the car park was found to be generally poor despite some low level remedial work being carried out. He and The Chair explained that there had been a recent meeting held between The LA and SMC to discuss this and general traffic management issues around the locality of the stadium, they agreed that some positive ideas had been discussed, the main action arising from this meeting was for The SMC to engage a traffic management consultant to conduct a feasibility study and propose some options to reduce congestion and improve safety. JD stated that in the interim period piecemeal improvements could be made to reduce the effects of the worst and most obvious defects.
LJ explained that she and others had noticed an improvement since the lighting levels had been enhanced and was happy to hear that the traffic management was being seriously looked at.
12. Leeds Utd 23/04/2016
The Chair gave those present an overview of the disorder that occurred at the North concourse segregation gate and the resultant debrief that followed (see debrief minutes for full details). He expressed how he found the debrief to be frank and open, very useful and how crucial lessons had been learned resulting in the implementation of action plans to ensure that a repeat of the disorder does not occur again. The inadequacy of the concourse flooring slip resistance was one of the main issues noted; JD confirmed that work to improve the slip resistance of the flooring was imminently due to start with that a material specification and contractor already identified.
14. AOB (Traffic Regulation Order Poorhouse Lane)
The Chair pointed out how he was disappointed to find that despite a formal request in the last meeting no TRO application to be made to restrict parking on Poorhouse Lane had been made, even though emergency services had informed the club that they would struggle to gain access in the event of an emergency.
SB confirmed that this was still high on the clubs agenda and that they had involved Cllr Chaytor to find a way forward, he continued to add that this seasons low attendances and some traffic management tweaks, such as prioritising coach egress had improved the situation. JB mentioned that in his opinion that reliance on poor results and attendance was not a sustainable solution and that a return to the attendances and traffic conditions where emergency services access would be restricted was equally possible and that he wasn’t sure what influence Cllr Chaytor could assert to aid the remedy of the situation. JB informed members that there would be an inspection carried out by the fire service at the next home fixture, as part of this inspection they shall attempt to access the stadium with a fire appliance and report back on the current adequateness of access.
14. AOB (PA System)
LJ pointed out that the intermittent performance of the PA system was actually noted stadium wide, and not confined to the South stand as the minutes suggested. DG explained that the amplifiers had been upgraded and that it’s is now the speaker system that is in need of investment. In advance of this investment The SMC are required to implement a management plan to ensure that any PA shortcomings do not affect crowd safety.
| SGSA Update
SS informed members of the structural changes in the authority, which included the recruitment of three new inspectors and chief inspector overseeing the inspection regime.
SS tabled guidance booklets on the involvement of spectators in the SAG process; she expressed how she was glad to see that an appreciation of this initiative was already shown by the attendance of Hull F.C and Hull City supporter group representatives.
Annual Club Record
SS reminded those involved that annual club records completed by the senior Safety Officer were required to be returned.
|5.|| Lightstream Stadium
Stadium Annual Audit
The Chair explained how due to staff changes the audit was slightly disjointed, typified by administrative errors and some omissions that were rectified once identified, he did confirm that the audit found that the club were broadly compliant. The Chair expressed his apologies for the lateness in providing an audit report but he had not had chance to write them up due to a heavy workload. It was confirmed that a further stewarding audit was to be conducted due to the stewarding standards found in initial audit being unsatisfactory.
It was confirmed that SB would be resigning from his post at the end of the season, it had been thought that he would be leaving earlier than this but finding a suitably qualified and experienced replacement proved to be problematic which lead to him offering to stay on for the rest of this seasons home fixtures and forthcoming rugby league international matches.
The Chair explained what the criteria was for appointing a new Safety Officer, pointing out that achieving this was not as simple or straight forward a process as it may seem, requiring a gradual introduction and a certain amount of progress to have been made towards attaining the relevant NVQ4 qualification and how careful planning is required to avoid a situation that could lead to a reduction in the “S Factor”.
As this was likely to be SB’s last attendance at a SAG meeting The Chair took the opportunity to commend him for his efforts during his time as Safety Officer and wished him well with his future endeavours.
The Chair, SB and GF gave an overview of the event, explaining that it would be held in an extremely large festival sized marquee on the overflow section of the Lightstream Stadium car park, with construction of the marquee scheduled to begin from the 12th November 2016 and was expected to be onsite for approximately 28 days. The Chair confirmed that he was happy for the event to run without a special safety certificate as to all intents and purposes it does not impinge on anything in the general safety certificate as no part of the stadium itself is used and the event occurs during close season, but warned that licensing and Fire Safety regulations must still be agreed/observed and that should any events in the stadium be planned during this time or the current understanding of the situation change then a special safety certificate may be required.
Parking, Central Reservation, Preston Road
It has been noted that parking in the central reservation outside of the stadium persists on match days, it has transpired that there is no offence caused by those opting to park there and that the implementation of a suitable TRO is not straight forward either (it is thought that a city wide TRO would have to be applied). It was suggested by JB that placing boulders in the reservation may remove the possibility of unwanted parking. The Chair stated that he shall look into the feasibility of this.
Post meeting note. PC has spoken to HCC Parking Enforcement and it is an offence to park on the central reservation as the double yellow lines on the nearside lane extend to the centre of the reservation. Parking enforcement will be carried out at the next fixture on 21/07/2016
|6.|| KCOM Stadium
Stadium Annual Audit
The Chair explained that similarly to the Lightstream Stadium there had been some administrative errors and omissions that were rectified once identified and that the audit found that the club were broadly compliant. The Chair expressed his apologies again for the lateness in providing an audit report but he had not had chance to write them up due to a heavy workload. It was confirmed that the stewarding audit had been conducted and was found to be satisfactory.
It was confirmed that Sue Watson was resigning from her post with effect from 31st July 2016 and that GN would was going to be appointed to begin his introduction towards becoming the new Safety Officer and that this would be within the remit of The Green Guide. It was discussed what the benchmark would be for adding GN to the safety certificate as Assistant Safety Officer. It had been agreed to be appropriate when he has attended the training, completed the question sections of the NVQ4 qualification and shadowed the incumbent Safety Officer at an agreed number of events. The Chair explained that the transitional period should not be as onerous for the GN or SMC to as there are two qualified deputy Safety Officers that can act up and mentor in the interim period.
Although Sue Watson was not in attendance at the meeting The Chair took the opportunity to commend her for her efforts during her time as Safety Officer and wished her well with her future endeavours.
|7.|| Nitro/Concert De-brief
The Chair was happy to report that there had been another constructive debrief covering the planning and execution of the Nitro Circus event and the Rod Stewart concert. It was discussed how for future events The SMC should retain more control and that it would be more efficient to have one central project manager to have overall ownership of the event, it was agreed by all involved that the for some aspects promoters of these events had too much control, deviated from agreed plans and we guilty of making last minute changes that compromised the safety teams event plan. The Chair explained that moving forward it was likely that every “Part B” event would require a special safety certificate and that on reflection the Nitro Circus should have been delivered under one as despite initially appearing simplistic enough to not require one, particular issues arose that could have been controlled better if managed under formally certified conditions, the most notable issues were the submission of non UK stage calculations, documents referring to non UK legislation and codes of practice and aspects of the stewarding operation that were organised by the promoter being poorly managed.
The level of smoke and fallout from the Rod Stewart concert fireworks display was discussed. The Chair and DG explained how despite documentation and verbal assurances being received stating that there would be minimal smoke and no fall out, there was and it was to an excessive and hazardous degree with some minor burns reported and visibility for the pitch spectators impaired. It was also agreed that the display was too long and how the level of noise late at night was perceived as being anti social to some. The Chair explained how there was two fireworks contractors, one had been organised by Rod Stewarts promoters and the other organised by MKM, the problematic fireworks were those organised by MKM and it has since transpired that despite the SAG receiving the documentation that confirmed that they would be safe and fit for purpose the fireworks were unproven which resulted in the issues mentioned above.
| Proposed LED advertising to East stand
JD gave members an overview of the general specification of the proposed LED advertising that the SMC would like to install in front of the East stand, as maintaining adequate spectator sightlines is the most fundamental consideration he circulated drawings that showed that as the LED hoardings were 1.24m in height, rather than 0.75m the hard standing between the terrace and the hoarding would need to be lifted by approximately 150mm for sightlines that meet the levels prescribed in the Green Guide to be preserved. It was discussed how the new hoardings would have displays on both sides, with the inside having the capability of displaying safety messages to spectators.
SS informed JD that another club inspected by her, Leicester City had installed a very similar product and experienced major issues that necessitated expensive retrospective alterations to overcome; she added that she was also aware that Swansea City had also experienced similar problems. The main difficulties that were faced were that the hoardings were not found to be epilepsy friendly and were a distraction to some spectators with a number complaining of experiencing “spots in their eyes”, JD responded to this by saying The SMC have reviewed the manufacturers specification in fine detail and were confident that the issues that have been described above have now been overcome as the technology has progressed, he added that these issues were the first things that came to mind when they first considered the product and that they will seek specific assurances from the manufacturer that there are not going to be problems of this nature, JD also mentioned that he thought that the raising of the hard standing would actually improve accessibility for disabled spectators and in general for emergency egress.
It was discussed how the operation of the hoardings must be adequate for emergency evacuation, that is to say they must have an equally accessible gate system onto the pitch, JD explained that they will have a gate which will be compliant with guidance and similar to the existing arrangement, he continued to add that they are in actual fact collapsible, SS mentioned that in doing this the display can sometimes be damaged so this may be a problem when training staff how to operate them, to which JD responded by explaining that the manufacturer has demonstrative dummy’s that can be put in place, it is intended that these shall be retained by the SMC to be used for training stewards. SS added that when in the down position she does not recall that there is a ramp down onto the pitch which may also present a problem, JD said he will look into this aspect of the design. It was also discussed how as solid barrier that is anchored to the ground the hoardings are likely to be very unforgiving for any player that collides with them. RH explained how it was his perception that spectators generally disliked the LED hoardings.
|9.|| Ticket allocation Manchester Utd
It was disclosed that the Manchester Utd fixture had been rescheduled to a 17.30pm kick off, The Police felt this was problematic for the safe management of spectators as the increased drinking time generally meant that more challenging behaviour was experienced. It was discussed how in retrospect the previous minutes perhaps flattered the behaviour and manageability of a significant proportion of the Manchester Utd spectators, it was noted that there were some minor improvements made but it should be understood that the problems were by no way resolved with persistent standing, occupation of aisles and a progressive collapse leading to spectators falling over the pitch perimeter wall and gate, to this end it was proposed by The Chair a restriction be imposed to remove the end seats of each row (two in total) and first row of seats including those behind the disabled seats in the east stand be removed with tarpaulin covers installed to restrict them.
JM questioned why this measure was necessary when segregation already exists with four seats taken out at the ends of each row in the home sections. The Chair explained that this was necessary to create segregation between opposing spectators but the removal of end the seats in the away sections was intended to reduce the effects of spectators persistently standing, explaining that when they do the space occupied is increased which forces those sat on end seats into the aisle which presents crowd control, general circulation and emergency service access issues. It was agreed by all but JM that The Chairs proposition was reasonable and that even though it seemed that it was unfair to JM the reality is it is unlikely to solve the problems described above. TB added that the group would be ignoring the lessons learn from past events of they did not impose these restrictions, SS seconded this notion, adding that in her opinion the proposal was fair and reasonable and assured JM that in these situations the removal of the bottom row is standard practice.
|10.|| KC Stadium, Allocation of away supporters (upper West)
JM confirmed that owners of Hull City (and The SMC) would like the SMC to conduct a trial of situating away spectators in the upper West stand. The Chair explained that he was in complete opposition to this suggestion as it contradicted the explicit guidance laid out in The Green Guide that has also been reiterated in a November 2013’s joint statement by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, FA Premier League, Football League, Football Association, Core Cities Group, Football Safety Officers’ Association, and Association of Chief Police Officers that was circulated to all Local authorities. The guidance asserts that
“Standing in a seated area with a gradient above 25 degrees must by definition be treated as unsafe”. The Chair explained that as the upper West stand has a rake of 34 degrees and as demonstrated in the last item, persistent standing is prevalent amongst a proportion of clubs away supporters, he felt that he would be negligent to support the proposal. JD explained that he had been instructed to devise an operational plan that would safely fulfil the objective of this reallocation but disclosed that he could not find away to do this safely or practically as in his opinion it could not be done. It was discussed that all of the expert guidance and opinion stressed that it was an inherently unsafe practice so for that reason alone the proposal should be dismissed, but it was also discussed that to even reduce the extreme hazards that were presented, significant changes to not only the fabric of the stadium but the operational management of the site would need to be made to ensure that away spectators are safely and sensibly accommodated and routed to the new location, in addition to this it was agreed that in any event, realistically there was not the time to facilitate this before the new season.
SS confirmed that she fully supported the SAG’s position and that it was clear that there was it was an unsafe proposal and that even if the reallocation was to be trialled the evidence suggests that heavy reductions in the S Factors would be appropriate as the situation appeared unmanageable.
JB mentioned how he recalled how in previous discussions The Police had stated that they did not think that they would be prepared to send officers into the stand to deal with disorder if the proposal was to go ahead as they felt that it was too hazardous, GN and TB agreed that this is Humberside Police’s initial view, it was then discussed how the same reservations regarding safe intervention with challenging spectators should be extended to stewarding staff. DG responded to this suggestion by confirming that The SMC would not instruct stewards to go into a dangerous situation either.
JD explained that he will complete and submit his feasibility report to the owners of the club, the content of which shall confirm that the request to move away spectators to the upper we stand is not supported by the SAG or safe and practicable for the SMC to deliver.
JD explained to the group there had been turnstiles installed in the West reception and that the reception has been given a contemporary renovation and how there shall be programmable displays installed facing the entrance that can present event specific material and information.
He then went on to describe future plans for the stadium complex which would be released to the public in due course. He informed members that he had held positive meetings with HCC Planning Department’s manager Alex Codd regarding the matter. JD confirmed that once these plans have been formalised they shall be tabled for consideration at SAG.
JD explained how it had become apparent to him that some employees connected with the stadium are gaining unpermitted access to the stadium bowl and hospitality areas to watch events. The group was very concerned that there are persons unaccounted for in the stadium during events, The Chair was unhappy to hear this and raised concerns about the potential of over capacitating areas during sold out events and how it was expected that The Safety Officer should know exactly who and how many people are in the stadium at any time, PCr stated that this is also alarming from a counter terrorism perspective, particularly in light of the recent attacks, each of which involved some form of insider threat and/or hostile reconnaissance, to that end there must be seat to names, he also added that he was happy to provide some training to help improve the situation. JD confirmed that he shall bring this practice to an end in a firm but fair manner.
Concourse/Vomitory Visibility Barriers
The Chair explained that during the debrief process and assessment for the disorder at the Leeds Utd fixture the barriers were shown to be obstructive to crowd control for The Police. It was also noted that there was only a left hand turn available at the vomitory situated next to the segregation gate which effectively reduced the exit capacity of the vomitory. GN added that it was possible for misbehaving spectators to mount the barriers stand on them which also presented a hazard. It also discussed how in general they are also quite aggressive in appearance. The Chair suggested that initially the barriers located near the segregation gate, that restrict crowd control and exit capacity should be removed and thereafter the replacement of the remainder of the barriers should be considered, replaced by stewarded hashed markings to uphold the restriction of the area where viewing whilst drinking alcohol is prohibited.
It was discussed how following Kingston Communications decision to rebrand to KCOM the stadiums name had changed too, SS explained that she would have to update the SGSA records to reflect the change. JD explained he had been negotiating with KCOM to secure some investment in the stadium for general improvements and to make changes around the stadium related to the rebranding.
JD confirmed that a plan is being gradually executed to upgrade all emergency lighting to the current standard.
Accidents and Incidents – Near Misses
JT requested that any accidents or near misses be reported to the HCC Health and Safety department, this would help them record data that could help bring about improvements where standards are lacking, adding that this was particularly pertinent considering the recent serious accident in the Walton St Car Park. The Chair confirmed that he has also recently asked for written incident reports for any accidents or near misses.