By Tony Attwood
My point is staying with the story of the crowd chaos before the Norwich match (see On the basis of the Norwich game Arsenal stadium should be closed as unsafe) is not just to highlight this but to suggest that the safety team at Arsenal learned nothing from the events of 2017 and the match against Cologne.
The assertion is also that at least one of the major entrances to the Arsenal ground before the Norwich game was not safe, with large numbers of people being forced to queue on concrete steps, without any knowledge of what the problem was above. Not only was this situation against the government regulations and guidelines on health and safety in public places, as a result there was considerable unease among those trying to get into the ground who were trapped on the steps, and in itself this was incredibly dangerous.
Further the behaviour of the staff hired for the day to oversee this process was utterly unacceptable. Shouting at supporters in the run up to a match is not a good way of ensuring good order and the rapid movement of people into the ground, nor is having such people run up and down clearly revealing a total lack of their own personal calm and control.
As a result I would welcome (and I stress I am simply writing on the basis of my personal experience of attempting to enter the environs of the ground on Saturday about 30 minutes before kick off in the Norwich match) action by Arsenal immediately as set out below.
And just before I give my list of action required perhaps I should explain, yes I do normally arrive more than 30 minutes before kick off as requested by the club, but even I, with decades of experience of travelling to Arsenal from the East Midlands, cannot predict exactly when the M1 south is going to be reduced to one lane as the result of an accident, causing over an hour’s delay which thus ate into my attempt to get there 90 minutes before kick off as requested.
1: The senior safety officer at Arsenal must be removed from office today. Saturday’s situation was not just teething troubles or a mistake – it was setting up a situation totally in contrary to government safety regulations, and if that is not a reason for removing an individual, then what on earth is?
2: The removal of the senior safety officer in charge for last Saturday should be made public, in order to assure fans that when Arsenal says it takes safety seriously that is not just words.
3: The sub-contractor used to obtain and employ staff to plan and oversee the checking of bags etc should have their contract cancelled. To set up a situation that clearly breaks provision within the “Green Guide” (the publication on stadium safety) shows a total disregard for public safety, and the law.
4: The Safety Officer’s staff for last Saturday should be removed from office unless any of them expressed their own concerns to the club about the way things were being handled, prior to the game.
5: There should be a public apology from the club, and a fulsome admittance of the errors made on Saturday, at the same time as all cctv footage from the day being released as part of Arsenal’s admission of putting its “customers” at such severe risk, and indeed treating them with contempt.
6: Details of why the stadium control room did nothing about the situation on the steps approaching the ground to the left of the club shop, should be made public.
7: The club should acknowledge that asking fans to arrive 90 minutes before a game and making that a fundamental part of its safety policy is not a practical nor reasonable approach to running a football match. At least not unless fans are given an incentive for so doing, such as cut price tickets. It is a policy that simply won’t work.
8: Details of the local authority’s report into the build up of Saturday’s game should be made public, so that supporters can see that the local authority is actually doing its job.
9: Details should be made public of what the club is doing to avoid the stadium being shut by the local authority – which is most certainly a possibility if Saturday’s scenes are ever repeated.
10: The club finally should issue a statement not just apologising for last Saturday’s situation, but also explaining how it could have happened, given what happened against Cologne, and in detail what measures are being put in place to ensure it never happens again. For example, although the removal of the sub-contractor in charge of bag checking at the top of the steps obviously must happen, we need to know how we can be certain that this sub-contractor won’t be replaced by one even worse.
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