28/06/2004

New safety proposals set for sports grounds

Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Angela Smith today announced the publication of a consultation document on a proposal to introduce legislation to govern safety at sports grounds in Northern Ireland.

Speaking this morning, the Minister said that unlike Great Britain, there was no specific legislation in Northern Ireland relating to spectator safety, however, the proposed legislation would bring the province into line with the rest of the UK.

"This (the legislation) would give powers to local District Councils to issue safety certificates, enforce the conditions of the safety certificates and, if necessary, issue prohibition notices," the Minister said. "Valid certificates would be required not only for sporting events but also for any other public event held in the sports grounds.

"The certificates would incorporate spectator viewing capacities, entry and exiting arrangements, safety management arrangements and contingency plans."

Angela Smith explained that her Department also considered that there should be a body to oversee the implementation of this legislation and to ensure that the same standards are applied across Northern Ireland. It would also provide advice and guidance to all interested parties, including governing bodies of sporting organisations, clubs and the District Councils responsible for issuing the safety certificates.

She added: "I believe the introduction of new legislation is vitally important. All too often we have seen the tragic results of accidents at sports grounds around the world, accidents which might have been prevented had the correct safety features been in place.

"Around 50% of the Northern Ireland population attend sporting events and their safety and comfort must be made a priority. Having good safety standards in place lowers the risk of accident and will help build attendance figures and encourage more families to support sporting events."

The Consultation Document is available on the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure’s website www.dcalni.gov.uk. The consultation period will end on October 1.

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