Football stadium safety set for extension

The FLA was formed after the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.
The FLA was formed after the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

By Hannah Brenton

Proposed legislation which would extend the Football Licensing Authority's (FLA) powers to other sports passed a major hurdle today.

Conservative MP Jonathan Lord is likely to buck the trend by getting his private member's bill, the sports grounds safety authority bill, on to the statute book.

The bill passed its third reading in the Commons this morning and will now make its way through the Lords.

Mr Lord has asked Labour peer Lord Faulkner to pilot the bill through the upper House.
The legislation would rename the FLA the Sports Grounds Authority and enable it to provide advice on safety at sports grounds generally.

The FLA licenses football grounds and oversees safety at the sport's stadiums in England and Wales.

It was formed in response to the 1989 Hillsborough tragedy - when 96 football fans were crushed to death at Sheffield Wednesday's stadium.

Mr Lord's bill would remove a statutory anomaly that stops the FLA from advising other sports' authorities on ground safety.

The Woking MP, himself a big fan of football and sport, said allowing the organisation to offer advice would be particularly beneficial in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

"In the FLA we have possibly the world's best organisation and personnel in terms of sports grounds safety - and with the Olympics coming up in the not too distant future it makes sense for them to be able to offer advice and expertise to the Olympics committee, along with other sports and international authorities," he said.

"At the moment the FLA have seconded a couple of members of staff to the London Organising Committee (Locog), but other personnel are not able to be fully involved.
"It makes much more sense if the entire organisation could be consulted."

The first-term MP said he appreciated the support of his peers across the benches -particularly
Steve Rotheram, the Labour MP for Liverpool Walton whose constituency includes both the Liverpool and Everton grounds, who has been in contact with the families of the Hillsborough victims.

"He helped me allay any concerns that those families would have," Mr Lord added. "I'm absolutely delighted they agree it will be a good thing for other sports."

Hugh Robertson, the minister for sport and the Olympics congratulated Mr Lord on pushing the bill through the Commons.

"I am glad that the bill has enjoyed wide cross-party support. It has been about ten years in the making. It is greatly to my honourable friend's credit that he has brought it to fruition," he said.


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