Following the recent social media chat regarding increased safety checks at home games, and following the club releasing a statement on Wednesday, our Supporter Liaison Officer Jenny Hancock, spoke to club safety officer Nick to ask him some of questions.
Jenny: Hi Nick, can you please talk me through the importance of the matchday security procedures?
Nick: Cheltenham Town FC take security and safety seriously and strive to ensure all fans can enjoy the football we love in an environment that minimises risk of harm.
While it may feel frustrating, at times, to go through security checks when we just want to watch the game, it often helps to understand why they are necessary.
Football stadium safety is regulated by the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) and Gloucestershire County Council issue a Ground Safety Certificate annually to the Club.
If regulations are breached and the certificate is not issued, then the Club cannot operate the stadium for spectators.
Jenny: Why do tickets need to be checked before entering the ground?
Nick: The certificate specifies mandatory requirements including safe capacity levels for individual stands and areas, resourcing of stewards, paramedics and first aiders. Hence the reason for checking tickets.
Our tickets only authorise us to access the area the ticket is issued for, and not for access to other areas or stands.
If the ground is at capacity and fans from one stand access another this would contravene the regulations and risk losing the safety certificate.
Security threats are a dynamic and ever-changing situation. The Club liaises with police, fire and licensing authorities and may raise the level of security checks at any time depending on individual local and national factors.
Jenny: Why is it no longer possible to go to the bar or move around the ground at half-time?
Nick: Leaving the stadium at half time is not permitted at Cheltenham or any other stadium as it would involve the same security checks for anyone re-entering the stadium.
This would obviously be impractical in a 15-minute break and result in fans missing the second half kick-off.
Concessionary cigarette breaks have been allowed in designated, barriered areas which are always supervised. Similarly, there have been supervised barriered walkways to access the bar.
It might feel to some that these measures detract from the community nature of our club, but they reflect the world we live in today.
Jenny: Why would stewards search children?
Nick: We only need to watch the news to see there is no age restriction on knife crime and tragedy.
People causing trouble and intending harm do not come with a label or advanced warning or fit into a stereotype.
Children and vulnerable adults are frequently used, as we know, to smuggle illegal substances and weapons.
Razor sharp weapons the size of a credit card are known to be secreted in wallets.
Jenny: But this is Cheltenham, nothing like that is going to happen here?
Nick: We see daily reports of national knife crime and our County is not exempt with one Gloucestershire teenager killed earlier this year.
Very recently, three metal tools with weapon potential were confiscated at the Jonny-Rocks Stadium, and that does not include the multiple bottles and other potential missiles which are confiscated each week before they are taken into the ground.
Pyrotechnics combust at a very intense heat and their smoke is carcinogenic.
This week the EFL have written to Clubs raising the issue of pyrotechnics and pointing out that they could face significant sanctions if flares and smoke bombs are allowed to enter grounds.
Those sanctions would be against the home club where the incident happened regardless of which fans are responsible. Do we want to risk such sanctions?
The safety officer, Nick, has a wealth of knowledge and experience and our safety is at the forefront of all decisions.
He is approachable and very happy to meet anyone with queries or concerns face to face to discuss them, ideally away from match time where he is usually fully-occupied with the running of the stadium.
Thank you, Nick.
The Club and the Safety officer Nick are committed to ensuring that we are all safe with the minimum of inconvenience and it’s up to us to do our bit too.
Would we want to get on a plane without these safety checks?
Why should a sporting or leisure event be any different in today’s uncertain climate?
Hindsight and bolting the stable door too late do not undo the harm caused by complacency.
We can all work together and contribute to ensuring that football is safe for everyone.
The Robins Trust, our Fan Elected Director (FED) and Supporter Liaison Officer are committed to ensuring any concerns from fans are raised to the club.
If contacting via twitter, please raise points via direct message as it is not always possible for us to check every single message.
However, the best, and most reliable, way to contact us is via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
We will always do our best to raise issues and respond as quickly and as accurately as we can. However both the FED and SLO are volunteers and have jobs and commitments outside of those with the Trust and Club. So some time may be needed to get a response.