Green Guide: changing field of sports grounds

Playing it safe

28 July 2016

Ken Scott explains why the changing field of sports grounds could mean big revisions in the forthcoming edition of the Green Guide

Much has changed since the publication of the 1st edition of the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds, more commonly known as the Green Guide, more than 4 decades ago in 1973.

The guide is widely used to help determine the safe capacity of grounds by safety management teams. It is recognised around the world by technical specialists such as architects and engineers as an important document supporting design and management. Since the tragedy at Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffield, UK, in 1989, many major stadium redevelopment programmes worldwide have been built to the standards set out in the guide.

The Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) is committed to providing best practice guidance and advice, informed by good-quality research, to help ensure spectator safety. Since the publication of the last edition in 2008 there have been many advances in the design and management of grounds and many technological developments, and the 6th edition of the Green Guide will be updated to reflect these changes.

Computer-based modelling

Computer-based crowd movement modelling has become more widely used in recent years, and these predictions provide valuable information for design and safety management. Explanation of the relationship between crowd modelling and the published static calculations in the Green Guide could therefore be a useful addition.

BS EN 13200 Spectator Facilities, a new suite of standards, is being developed by the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) to ensure harmony across the continent. A number of the standards have been released, and there will be further additions in the coming months to complement these. The standards will mirror many sections of the present Green Guide, and will also be reflected in the new edition.

All editions of the Green Guide since 1990 have been developed and produced under the administration of the former Football Licensing Authority and as such, although they are relevant for all sports, they have had a bias towards football. The introduction of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority Act 2011 and the formation of the SGSA together provide an opportunity to ensure that the guidance reflects the needs of all sports that use grounds. The guide will also consider the global nature of sport, and aim to reflect the needs of international sports bodies.

Spectator behaviour

Since the 5th edition was published in 2008, a number of trends and spectator behaviours have emerged, including the use of pyrotechnics in sports grounds.

On the management side, there has in recent years been a shift towards risk-based general safety certificates, supported by operations manuals and an array of contingency plans; the revised guide should therefore ensure that its recommendations do not come into conflict with these.

One such area is in the guidance on medical and first-aid provision for spectators. Discussions have been ongoing for some time in the medical profession to develop contingency plans that better fit current levels and types of injury, and the risks associated with sporting events, and this would enable more bespoke planning for events.

The lessons learnt from the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, in particular in last-mile planning and demountable structures, could also be considered for inclusion in the revised Green Guide.


The current edition of Accessible Stadia was published by the former Football Licensing Authority and the Football Stadia Improvement Fund in 2003, and a supplementary guidance note by the SGSA in 2015. The revision of the Green Guide offers an opportunity to discuss whether the content of the Accessible Stadia guidance should be included in it or whether is better suited to a stand-alone publication.

Changes in legislation, including alterations in UK law, the prohibition of smoking in public buildings and the emergence of e-cigarettes, should be reflected in the new edition. The guidance should also be updated with references to other relevant existing guidance and standards, including the document Alternative Uses of Sports Grounds published by the SGSA in 2015.

The outcomes and recommendations from the Hillsborough Inquests, which concluded recently, will also be recognised. We will examine the findings carefully and look at how to include them in the Green Guide if appropriate.

Ken Scott is an SGSA inspector

Further information