Stadium security in South Africa - SA behind the times

August 2001 News & Events

Hi-Tech Security Solutions recently met with one of the world's leading experts on football stadium design, safety and security, Simon Inglis, and Bob Cole of Special Projects Security, who were guests of the British Council's Football Nation exhibition and seminar series at SA Soccer Expo 2001. Ingles appears regularly on international media networks as an expert commentator on issues of stadium safety and design around the world, whilst the business focus of Special Projects Security is on the safety and security management of stadia in the UK.

Ingles observed that, while South Africa had the benefit of world-class facilities like Ellis Park, it faced the same crowd management challenges Europe had grappled with a decade ago. A strong proponent of the international sharing of lessons and experience, Ingles believes South Africa can draw usefully from the way other countries have dealt with these issues.

Urging South Africans to get their house in order to avoid a repeat of the Ellis Park disaster, Ingles suggested that "South Africa had a lot of work to do".

"At the moment, and harsh as it may seem, you are behind the times. I would say South Africa is about 10 years behind the world when it comes to managing and handling situations similar to what occurred at Ellis Park. I do not want to comment on what happened at Ellis Park because I was not there, but it is important in any situation to know who is in charge. The management side of the matter is crucial. There has to be someone who is in control and who coordinates matters during a football match. In some countries it still tends to be the police, but the best way would be to train people and stay clear of the police."

Inglis feels that South Africa's ability to host a World Cup should not be judged by what happened at Ellis Park. He believes the country has a lot to offer the football world. "Look, in Hillsborough, Sheffield, when 89 fans were killed during a stampede, there was nothing wrong with the stadium," he said. "The same can be said about Ellis Park. If I were to take Ellis Park and put it in Europe, it would stand out as one of the best stadia on the continent. That is why the management aspect is crucial. Often complacency steps in and that is when the situation gets out of control. The best way to learn how to handle situations like Ellis Park and Hillsborough is to pick up experience as you go along. In England, we (safety officials) have travelled the world looking at different situations to find ways to prevent any recurrences."

Inglis's remarks come as the judicial commission of inquiry into the Ellis Park disaster is underway, with public hearings at the Johannesburg High Court from 16 to 19 July. The commission was appointed to investigate the death of 43 people in a stampede during a Premier Soccer League match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates on 11 April. The match was abandoned after about half an hour with the score 1-1. South Africans await the findings of the commission and the recommendations of the presiding judge, Bernard Ngoepe.

Hi-Tech Security Solutions will continue to cover stadium safety and security. Watch this space.

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