#2. Legislation, Regulation and Crowd Safety

#2. Legislation, Regulation and Crowd Safety
Lady Justice. Image by William Cho.

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to experience event planning and approval on both sides of the Safety Advisory Group (SAG): presenting event plans and assessing event plans - in sports grounds and outdoor events. Legislation differs greatly whether or not an event is inside a venue or out on the street, a stadium or a public park.  

When it comes to crowd safety, I noticed inconsisteny in the level of competency between event organisers and SAGs throughout the UK on both sports grounds and outdoor events, which concerned me. Furthermore, when it came to outdoor events (or events outside of sports grounds), there was no legislative instrument designed with the safety of crowd in mind. My concern regarding this inconsistency became the focus of my MSc dissertation, and I wanted to understand the relationship between legislation and regulation on crowd safety, how it impacts the planning and delivery of crowd safety practices and if improvements can be made.

As the frequency of events has increased in the last number of decades (Mussaid et al, 2011) and legislation tightens after each disaster (Elliott and Smith, 1993), the role of crowd safety has increased in importance (Darby et al, 2004). As Crowd Science considers the study of crowd dynamics, density and behaviour (Still, 2000; Raineri, 2016); the need for a specialised approach to develop safety measures for crowds resulted in the crowd safety management approach developing today (Still et al, 2020).

Evolution of the events industry

As the events industry grows in popularity, so does attendance (Abbott and Geddie, 2000). Outdoor events are becoming increasingly common, ranging in size, type and duration (Raineri, 2013). Legislation that governs the safety of crowds has developed significantly in sports grounds but not in outdoor events (Raineri, 2013; Martella et al, 2017). For example, there is currently no legal requirement for an organiser to hold a qualification in order to plan an event for thousands of people to attend. Research shows that, although the proximate cause of a crowd disaster is usually due to overcrowding (Haase et al, 2019), the distal cause of disasters is almost always due to a level of management incompetence or failing to value safety over money (Turner, 1994). Evidence shows that legislation and regulation improve safety (Melrose et al, 2011), however they are normally introduced in reaction to the proximate cause of the disaster, rather than a holistic response to the safety requirements of the subject matter (Smith, 1991; Elliott and Smith, 1993; Johnes, 2007; Tasic, 2019).

Sports stadia disasters in the United Kingdom have been some of the worst crowd incidents to occur in the last century, and most studied; however since the Hillsborough Disaster in 1989 and the subsequent introduction of the Sports Ground Safety Authority (formally Football Licensing Authority), there have been no reported stadia crowd disasters since.