Football club fined over ‘problematic’ evacuation

Football club fined over ‘problematic’ evacuation

ROTHERHAM UNITED were fined £150,000 for the evacuation, which occurred on a non match day at its New York Stadium in 2015.

Rotherham Advertiser reported on the prosecution at Sheffield Crown Court over the ‘problematic’ evacuation at the stadium on 10 January 2015, when no match was taking place but ‘two functions were’ in the stadium’s west stand. There was no fire and no injuries, but the fire alarm ‘highlighted problems with how evacuations were co-ordinated’ between the club and its catering and hospitality partner Centerplate.

In total, there were 285 people present in the stadium including 195 at a beer festival and 90 at a festive lunch organised by a local community centre. Judge David Dixon commented that the beer festival guests had been escorted to a locked fire escape, though neither the club nor Centerplate were at fault as this was down to ‘human error’.

He added that Centreplate’s duty manager ‘tried to direct those with mobility issues to the lifts, but they didn’t arrive’, and ‘as a consequence, the visitors were directed to the service lifts, which again didn’t arrive’. Staff also did not know how to use four evacuation chairs, with guests not fully evacuated until 15 to 20 minutes after the alarm had sounded.

In response, the club accepted procedures relating to these events were ‘not as robust as they should have been’, and that it launched an internal investigation post incident. Both the club and Centerplate ‘took remedial steps to introduce more robust procedures’, but Rotherham were ‘disappointed’ that the incident had shown that the club ‘had not met the high standards it continually strived to achieve’.

It added in a statement: ‘In sentencing, the judge praised the club for its contribution to the local community and its conscientious approach in the specific improvements made at that time. Further, the judge accepted that there have been no incidents since and no ongoing issues with non-match day safety.

‘Whilst the case did not relate to match day safety, the club was pleased at the judge’s recognition that there was and is no issue with the club’s approach to match day safety and that it has nothing but the highest regard for the safety of visiting and home supporters. The club has always taken its health and safety responsibilities extremely seriously.

‘Provision of a safe stadium from which football and many other social events can be enjoyed by the local community is, and always has been, at the heart of everything the club does. The club is glad that the matter has now concluded and it can move forward focussing all of its efforts on pursuing continued success both on and off the field.’

The club’s operating company pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and agreed to pay £150,000 and £14,500 costs, while Centerplate was fined £130,000 and costs of £7,500.