The Local Government Association is calling on the government to end the regulations that are seeing local councils responsible for paying for sports clubs to get ground safety certification.
Annually, the bill for the certification comes to around £1 million, with this being funded by the local taxpayer due to councils’ responsibility for ground safety certification. There are, however, laws dating back to 1975 that put a cap on the amount that the councils can charge the clubs which results in the taxpayer having to cover the remaining costs.
Research from the Local Government Association gives an estimate of £1.1 million, as mentioned above, for the yearly costs of the certification, however it has also established that councils are being forced to pay around £5,869 per ground. A large number of these will be football stadia, which then brings about the issue around how costs may be higher for football stadia than other grounds, with research pointing to costs of over £20,000 per ground.
As the Premier League returns this evening, the LGA has called on the government to change the process to make sure that the clubs are footing the bill, rather than the councils that are facing budgetary and staff time issues. This would see amendments to the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975, as well as connected rules from 1987 that establish what councils can charge clubs for, to introduce a new football regulator.
Currently, the regulations require all EPL and EFL stadia with capacities of more than 5,000 to hold a safety certificate, with this ensuring the structural integrity of the ground, provisions for means of escape, adequate fire precautions, and emergency services coordination amongst other things.
The LGA also stated that, whilst it recognises the fact that many smaller clubs may struggle to find the funding to pay for the certification, it would be up to the sport itself to ensure that clubs can pay.
Chair of LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, Cllr Heather Kidd, said:
“Councils want to work with football and other sports clubs to ensure they have all the necessary ground safety measures in place.
“Football and sport have changed massively since 1975 when Kevin Keegan was footballer of the year and Brentford were in the Fourth Division. The current charging regulations are outdated and in need of reform. It is perverse that with the revenue in some sports, particularly football, that clubs are not meeting the costs of this vital work, unlike other businesses councils regulate, which rightly pick up the costs of regulation through the licence fees they pay.
“Some of our top clubs are paying their players hundreds of thousands of pounds a week, while at the same time councils face significant financial pressures to provide vital local services, and this is an extra cost they shouldn’t have to pick up.
“It is only fair that clubs pay the fees involved to cover the full cost of issuing safety certification, rather than for this to fall to the taxpayer.
“While these fees would not be huge, we do recognise this might be a challenging additional cost for some smaller clubs also struggling financially. However, there is enough collective wealth within the game to ensure that clubs, rather than taxpayers, should fund this.”
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