The Football Licensing Authority (FLA), the predecessor to the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA), was originally conceived as the body that would implement the Football Membership Scheme in response to the disaster at the Heysel Stadium in 1985. However, the Government shelved this in the light of Lord Justice Taylor's Final Report on the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster of April 1989.
Instead it charged us with implementing some of the Report's key recommendations by:
- monitoring local authorities' oversight of spectator safety at international, Premiership and Football League grounds;
- and ensuring through a system of licensing that these grounds became all seated.
In 1992 the Government decided to allow clubs in the Football League Second and Third Divisions to retain some standing accommodation, provided that this satisfied certain criteria. We enforce this through our licences.
The stated goal of the FLA was to ensure that all spectators regardless of age, gender, ethnic origin, disability, or the team that they support are able to attend sports grounds in safety, comfort and security. In pursuing that goal the FLA was the catalyst for vast improvements both to stadia and the safety management of spectators. Current stadia and the facilities within them are unrecognisable from those of 20 years ago.
That work has helped to ensure:
- Seventy three of the 94 football grounds in England and Wales within our remit are now all-seated, with increased attendances and a wider demographic of supporters.
- All grounds now employ competent Safety Officers to oversee the safety of spectators.
- Through advice and persuasion, the FLA brought about a permanent change of safety culture whereby encouraging consistently high standards of safety at every Premiership, Football League and International football ground, with clubs and ground management taking responsibility for safety on their own initiative, rather than in response to requirements imposed by other bodies.
- The FLA worked with the Sector Skills Council to develop nationally recognised spectator safety management qualifications and with the football authorities to develop a training syllabus. The great majority of the stewards on the books of Premier and Football League clubs are now trained, assessed and (at the very least) on the way to being qualified.
- Spectator facilities designed and built in accordance with the FLA’s guidance on Accessible Stadia which seeks to promote how disabled spectators can enjoy both a clear view of the game and a choice of where to watch it from.
- Perimeter fences which used to cage spectators in, and which still do in many grounds outside the UK, have long since been removed.
- The FLA’s influence has extended into other sports by virtue of the Green Guide being applied to other stadia and events.
On 14th October 2010 the Government announced proposals to reform 481 public bodies through the Public Bodies Bill. The FLA was identified as one of the organisations to be abolished but with a commitment given that it should remain as a separate body until after 2012, when its expertise and functions would be transferred to another body.
The Sports Grounds Safety Authority was established to build on the success of the Football Licensing Authority, and the critical role it played in transforming spectator safety at football grounds in the UK over the last 20 years. In our new role, we will continue to carry out our statutory functions under the Football Spectators Act 1989 in England and Wales, and expand our advisory functions in relation to other sports and internationally. In 2011, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority Bill was given cross-party support and in July, received Royal Assent. The Commencement order came into force in November 2011.