Sports ground safety

The safety of spectators who visit sports grounds to watch sport or events is controlled by specific legislation.

The legislation covering this is the Safety at Sports Grounds Act 1975 as amended by the Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act 1987.

What is regulated?

Designated grounds and regulated stands.

A designated ground is one where association football matches are played and the ground has spectator occupancy of 5000 people (10,000 to other sports grounds) or more.

A regulated stand is a stand providing covered accommodation for more than 500 people.

The purpose of the legislation is to ensure the safety of spectators who visit large or complex sports grounds for sporting fixtures or other similar events.

Exemptions to regulation

Sports grounds that are not designated, with a spectator occupancy of less than 5000 people (10,000 to other sports grounds) and stands providing covered accommodation for less than 500 people, are exempt from the safety at sports ground legislation.

However the club or organisation promoting or organising a sporting event held within a venue exempt from the legislation will still have a duty to maintain a safe sporting event and ensure the safety of the spectators under general health and safety law.

Further advice on managing crowds safely and organising a public event can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website.

Who is the regulator?

Barnsley Council's Building Control service is responsible for the administration of the safety at sports ground legislation within the borough. This role includes the issuing and enforcement of a general safety certificate for any designated grounds or regulated stands.

The general safety certificate requires the holder to be responsible for the safety of spectators who visit and use the ground facilities. The policy document sets the agreed policy and procedure for managing safety at designated sports grounds and specifically relates to the Oakwell Football Stadium, which is currently the only designated sports ground within the borough. This document identifies the roles and responsibilities of the council in undertaking its statutory duties and has been consulted on with both the emergency services and the Football Licensing Authority.

In addition, Building Control has established a Safety Advisory Group (or Safety Team) to support and advise the holder of the general safety certificate how to meet their duties and responsibilities under the safety at sports grounds legislation. Read the terms of reference for the Oakwell Football Stadium.

To receive more information about safety at sports grounds please fill in our online enquiry form.  

Making an application

An application for a general safety certificate for a designated ground or regulated stand must include details and address of the stadium, together with details of the individual or organisation who will manage the stadium. In particular, details are required of the person who is proposed to be the holder of the requested general safety certificate together with their competency for acting as the holder.

The issuing of a general safety certificate for a designated ground or regulated stand requires consideration of a broad number of issues to ensure the health, safety, welfare and comfort of the spectators. These include, for example, the management of the stand or stadium, the level of stewarding available, means of escape in case of fire, together with the location of steps, standing areas, barriers and guarding, also the provision of toilets. Other important aspects of a general safety certificate are the need for scrutiny of safety systems and certification of elements, services and equipment.

Information on all the aspects that need to be considered under an application for a General Safety Certificate can be found on the Sports Grounds Safety Authority website.

To apply for a safety certificate please fill in our application form and return it to us.

How long will it take to process my application?

It will take two months from you submitting your application for us to process it.

It's in the public interest that we process your application before it can be granted. If you haven't heard from us within a reasonable period, please contact Building Control. You can do this using the contact details above.

What might delay an application?

  • An incomplete application for a General Safety Certificate that does not address all the issues discussed in the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds (such as drawings of the stadium or stand, management procedures, stewarding plans, event plans, safety documents, risk assessment documentation, means of escape plans)
  • A lack of evidence to justify compliance with the guidance.
  • A lack of certification to prove that elements of the structure, safety barriers, services or equipment are safe effective and appropriate.

Public register

No public register is held by us containing information with regard to safety at sports grounds. However Oakwell Stadium and covered stand and football training grounds are separately subject to the issue of a general safety certificate.

Complaints or appeals

To review or seek clarification of an existing general safety certificate, to appeal a decision regarding an application for a general safety certificate, to make a representation with regard to safety at sports grounds, or to make a complaint about this service, please contact Building Control using the contact details above.

If after contacting Building Control you're still not satisfied, please follow our corporate complaints procedure.

More information about sports ground regulation can be found on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport website.