In the wake of the Manchester Arena Attack in 2017 and the Wembley Euro Final in 2021, the subject of who was responsible for crowd safety within the public realm became a topic of focus. This issue regarded the delineation of responsibility for crowd management within the space outside the venue where crowds arrived and departed from. This space can be publicly or privately owned, is usually publicly accessible by crowds, and includes train stations, car parks, bus load zones, taxi drop off/pick up, fan zones, brand activations, pop-up stores and entertainment. Although there are clear lines of safety responsibility within the venue perimeter, anywhere outside of it becomes more of a grey space regarding the responsibility of managing the safety of people arriving and departing the venue.
As events draw greater global attention and the ambiguity of who is responsible for crowd safety on publicly accessible land, coupled with the impending counter terrorism law in the UK (Martyn’s Law) appears to have resulted in stakeholder hesitancy surrounding crowd safety in this grey space a.k.a Zone Ex. This hesitancy directly impacts crowd safety as lack of agreements and decision making between stakeholders and agencies results in ineffective policies, protocols, contingency and emergency response plans.
What is Zone Ex?
Zone Ex, meaning External Zone, is a term coined by the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA)(UK) in the latest edition of the Green Guide (6th Edition of the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds) and refers to the external zone outside of a sports ground; usually relating to ports of entry, transport hubs or the places crowds gather before they transition into or out of Zone 5 (the external concourse of stadium/sports ground). It is defined by the Green Guide as;
“the external zone…sometimes referred to as ‘the last mile’, is in the public realm and is likely to encompass the main pedestrian and vehicle routes leading from Zone 5 to public car parks, local train stations, bus stops and so on.” (SGSA, 2018).
Although this Guide is only applicable for sports grounds that fall under the Safety of Sports Ground Act 1975, the contents of The Guide have been applied to a plethora of events worldwide. Previous to this definition, the area was often referred to as 'Last Mile', referring to the journey taken on foot by the crowd en route to or from the venue. Before Last Mile, the term was known as 'Grey Space'.
This 'Grey Space' can be owned by private or public organisations, private individuals or the local authority; and while there are laws in the UK concerning Occupier’s Liability (Act 1957), land owners are rarely willing to take responsibility for the safety of people passing through their space arriving and departing an event, especially if they have nothing to do with the event. Public Space or Public Realm is space accessed by the public and managed by the state on the public’s behalf (Mitchell, 2003) and accessibility is the key word here as it refers to the dimension of ownership, which distinguishes between private and public (Madanipour, 2003). Zone Ex therefore can be either public space, private space or a mix of both, which in itself contributes to the ambiguity surrounding safety primacy.
Why has it become topical?
Over the last decade, the vagueness over safety primacy in non-venue owned space appears to have increased in the UK as the police have decreased crowd management support for events. The high frequency and size of events has put a strain on police services, with the issue of publicly funded policing of football events becoming subject of parliamentary debate (BBC, 2008; Furniss, 2019). As police services have scaled back resource for the events industry to focus on their primary roles, it appears to have left a ‘safety primacy gap’ in Zone Ex.
For example,the UK's Met Police state; “Ensuring public safety at a public event is not the first responsibility of the police. Police are responsible for maintaining the peace, preventing breaches of the law and taking action against people breaking the law” (Metropolitan Police, n.d.). In addition they state; "One of the main responsibilities of an event organiser is the safety of the people taking part, as well as for those in any way affected by it." This statement clearly sets out the police's remit, and suggests who is responsible for public (crowd) safety.
Greater Manchester Police elaborate the above statement to detail their role as well as the event organiser's, and note the importance of collaboration; "The organisers’ role of maintaining public safety can best be accomplished if there is no crime or disorder taking place. Equally, the police role of preventing lawlessness and disorder can best be accomplished when public safety is assured. Since these roles are clearly interdependent, it is in the interest of both organisers and police to work together with joint responsibility for the regulation of the event. Greater Manchester Police firmly believes that this partnership approach is the most effective way forward for all parties involved." (Greater Manchester Police, n.d.).
Looking abroad, the approach of Victoria Police in Australia is similar to that of the UK police; “Event organisers have a responsibility to provide adequate measures to ensure the safety of event participants, spectators, and the general public. Victoria Police has a responsibility to preserve the peace, and to detect and prevent offences.” Here the police are clearing stating their level of responsibility, placing management of crowd safety within the remit of the event organisers.
Although police are responsible for ensuring public safety in the public realm, the movements of crowds pre and post a football match, for example, can be intrusive and require significant crowd management. The impact of this over time has resulted in financial and resource implications on policing services as they end up managing the crowd in Zone Ex. Some arguments between venues and police have resulted in court cases partly due to the lack of legal definition on safety responsibility. For example, in 2012, West Yorkshire Police took Leeds United Football Club to court regarding who bears responsibility for the policing costs in public streets and car parks before and after a football match (Blackstone Chambers, 2012). Leeds United won.
In 2016, Ipswich Town Football Club appealed a decision where they were made to pay Suffolk Police for policing the grounds and highway around the stadium, and also won (BBC, 2017), with Lady Justice Gloster clearly stating where she believes the responsibility for decision making on this subject lays:
"It is for parliament to change the law, if it considers it appropriate to make football clubs pay for police attendance at football matches on the highway, outside the stadium or other privately owned land."
Zone Ex was a key area of discussion in the Wembley Euro 2020 Final report as the question for who was responsible for public safety outside the venue was listed as a contributing factor to the disorder that built up before the event. It was included in the third recommendation, stating: “The SGSA, the events industry, the police and local government [must] agree on a way forward on who is accountable for Zone Ex”.
The report from the Manchester Arena Inquiry recommended that “cooperation is required from everybody and attempts should not be made to pass on responsibilities to others”.
Even in 2022, the Seoul Halloween crowd disaster demonstrated the gravity of what is at risk when there is no collective oversight of a crowded space. The prime minister has now directed his government to "establish a crowd-control system for events in the future that lack a single organizer" (Martin, 2022)
It appears that when parties are hesitant in taking a coordinating role in responsibility of Zone Ex, or avoid interoperability, the risk to crowd safety increases. Speed and precision are two key elements by which the effectiveness of crisis response is measured (Avanzi et al, 2017), and so without an agreed framework of collaborative working increases the risk to crowds through delayed and inaccurate response.
Importance of Interoperability
All agencies/stakeholders at some stage of an event will have a crowd passing through their space, and so are jointly responsible for ensuring crowd safety depending on their role and legal obligation. This can be from the perspective of public safety (local authority, police), preventing crime and disorder (police), occupier’s liability (local authority or land owner), or spectator safety (venue/event management). This multi-faceted approach can help to ensure that safety is considered holistically.
If an organisation agrees to take on a coordinating role, but the responsibility lays across all agencies, it is an opportunity to remove the concern of holding all liability in case something goes wrong. Could, in this instance, a law be enacted to support this joint operability? A holistic way of working that has been proven to be more effective in successful delivery? Just like the Health & Safety at Work Act 1984 informs us that everyone is responsible for safety, can the same approach be taken for crowd safety in Zone Ex?
The creation of the Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Protocol (JESIP), underpinned by the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, demonstrates just how salient working together is, and how the lack of collaboration carries serious repercussions. JESIP was set up after identifying that collective working was the most effective way of reducing death or injury during a disaster, and needed to improve between emergency services. Their principles include co-locate, communicate, co-ordinate, jointly understand risk and shared situational awareness. These principles can easily be applied to managing Zone Ex, providing a base line for agencies to develop protocols from.
The UK’s Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 reminds us we all have a collective responsibility for ensuring safety of ourselves and others, so far as reasonably practicable, and the ambiguity of responsibility and level of responsibility within Zone Ex makes for a significant challenge to crowd safety that may perpetuate for events to come.
Regardless of whether or not legislation is brought in to decide who is responsible for crowd safety in Zone Ex, we are still collectively responsible. The sooner agencies can agree a way to move forward, the sooner interoperability can grow, which only allows for faster, precise and effective responses to incidents.
Ultimately, events are only going to continue and the positive impact they bring to communities and economies hugely benefit our wellbeing as society. Zone Ex is here to stay so it is in our best interest to take collective responsibility in keeping people safe during ingress and egress as well as the event itself. As Charles Darwin reminds us “in the long history of humankind, those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”
BBC (2008) Football ‘should pay for police.’ [Online] [Accessed on 30th November 2022] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7553875.stm.
BBC (2017) Ipswich Town win appeal in battle over police costs. [Online] [Accessed on 28th November 2022] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-41567252.
Chambers, B. (2012) Leeds United FC v West Yorkshire Police. [Online] [Accessed on August 31st, 2022] https://www.blackstonechambers.com/news/case-leeds_united_fc/.
Greater Manchester Police, (n.d.) Guidance for event organisers. [Online] [Accessed on 1st March 2023] https://www.gmp.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/gmp-events/guidance-for-event-organisers/.
Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. London: HMSO
Furniss, G. (2019) Cost of Policing Football. [Online] https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2019-06-04/debates/7FBCA7DA-C3B1-4CC1-8C3C-FFC9F31115E2/CostOfPolicingFootball.
Madanipour, A. (2003) Public and private spaces of the city. Routledge, London, and New York, NY
Martin, T. (2022) Pressure Mounts on South Korean Officials Over Deadly Halloween Tragedy. Wall Street Journal. [Online] [Accessed on 9th January 2023] https://www.wsj.com/articles/pressure-mounts-on-south-korean-government-and-police-over-deadly-halloween-tragedy-11667389028?st=gs20pq8rb38ewyb&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink.
Mitchell, D. (2003) The right to the city: social justice and the fight for public space. Guilford, New York, NY
Metropolitan Police (n.d.) Guidance for event organisers. [Online] [Accessed on 1st March 2023] https://www.met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/e/events-and-processions/guidance-event-organisers/.
Raineri, A. (2013) “Contextualising risk assessment – incorporating the psychosocial dimension in assessing crowd safety risks at outdoor music festivals.” In Safety Institute of Australia Visions Conference.