Ibrox Stadium – safety questions that must be answered.

Each year anyone or any organisation hoping to host a major event in Glasgow has to work with the Safety Advisory Group (SAG).

The SAG addresses safety in sports grounds, including the four main football stadia within Glasgow.

This body comprises partners from Glasgow City Council’s Building Control and Public Safety and Licensing sections as well as Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue and the Scottish Ambulance Service.

The primary role of a SAG is to provide advice and guidance to a football club’s safety management team on accommodating spectators safely within their stadium. The body is a non-statutory body and does not have legal powers or responsibilities, and is not empowered to approve or prohibit events from taking place.

For the avoidance of doubt, it is the management team of any football stadium or sports stadium that has ultimate responsibility for the safety of their spectators.

Dealing with a SAG is a serious business; any misinformation, half-truths or falsehoods discovered following a serious safety issue at a venue could result in criminal charges.

My sources within Ibrox have left me with a growing sense of alarm over the interaction with the SAG, both in the initial process and subsequent events.

These are honourable people within Ibrox who believe that their dealing with this body has been far from the truth, even further from the whole truth and doesn’t come within a country mile of getting close to, ‘nothing but the truth.’

Indeed, such is their disquiet that these individuals hope beyond hope that some media outlet will raise the subject and allow them, for the first time in a long time, a full, or even a partial, nights sleep.

These are professionals who have concerns about the men, women and children who attend events at Ibrox, a stadium that has seen 93 people perish in two separate tragedies. A number of concerned staff are scared about what may happen if there is an incident in one of the three stands at Ibrox that are believed to be in perilous condition. It is their belief they would not be allowed a safety certificate if subjected to a rigorous and independent safety inspection.

I have been encouraged to be the conduit for their fears, and I will contact Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government at Holyrood asking them to examine safety issues surrounding Ibrox and temper the deep held disquiet of some staff employed there. I will also send this article to all those authorities that make up the SAG.

I owe it to the people who have turned to me and outlined their fears.

Immediately after the game against Celtic on Hogmanay, give or take a few days to allow the content of the Loving Cup to get out of the system, it is the intention of the powers that be at Ibrox, to install netting below three stands to prevent supporters, both home and away supporters, from the possibility of being struck by debris from the unsafe roofs.

This is not a joke; this is not a made up imaginary second-hand yarn; it is not apocryphal. This ‘solution’ to the major remedial work that is needed has been conveyed to representatives of Glasgow City Council.

Naturally, enough Glasgow City Council has raised a number of issues with regard to Ibrox Stadium and, as yet, has received no substantive answers to their questions.

The queries vary from specific questions about bolts to more fundamental issues concerning the report submitted to the SAG from TRFC and compiled by a firm of leading consultant engineers. SAG want reassurance that they have seen the report in its entirety.

Is it possible that the report been presented to SAG with pages or sections missing?

My contact down Govan way tells me the issue of ground safety, and the letters from Glasgow City Council are being passed around like the parcel at a children’s party.

Interestingly, the Leader of Glasgow City Council, Frank McAveety received a letter from PR expert Jack Irvine raising issues about the safety status at Ibrox. Mr Irvine, who has guided Rangers leaders through many storms, also advises former Ranger football board directors Sandy and James Easdale.

One of the main questions to be asked of those running this football club is; if they need to put netting below the three stands on the opening weeks of 2017 was their submission to the SAG in 2016 the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Surely the deterioration to the fabric of the stands has not reached critical alarm levels in a matter of months?

I have asked the press office at Ibrox if they would care to answer that question and comment on the relevant questions raised below to help reassure that Ibrox Stadium is fit for purpose and all who attend the ground would be safe.

The other questions that have to be asked are:

Is netting going to protect supporters from a falling beam or guaranteed to prevent a falling nut or bolt hitting someone below?

What happens during the December matches, before the Heath Robinson style solution is installed?

What will protect the tens of thousands attending home fixtures in the event of an incident; perhaps an incident being brought on by adverse weather conditions like high winds or a heavy snowfall?

Can the Safety Advisory Group including departments from Glasgow City Council, Police Scotland, the fire and ambulance services, who are all aware of the concerns, allow this situation to continue without taking action?

Can the deafening silence from Ibrox to the questions posed by Glasgow City Council be allowed to continue without the authorities shouting from the rooftops that enough is enough?

Can Scotland’s Government at Holyrood allow this situation to be tolerated when the safety of its citizens are at risk?

Can the director of visiting football clubs scheduled to play at Ibrox allow their supporters to be put in jeopardy?

It is interesting to look at Directors’ Criminal Liability, which states:

“Where offence by corporation is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager or similar officer, he shall be guilty of the offence.”

Perhaps it is this knowledge that is causing some at Ibrox to feel alarmed at becoming involved in this toxic game of pass the parcel with Glasgow City Council’s valid questions.

This is not a narrow, point-winning issue; this is not a debate about who has the best centre forward; this is not a debate about who will finish higher in the league or win a cup.

This could be a matter of life and death, although, one earnestly hopes, it never comes to that.

In December 2015 a game at Ibrox against Dumbarton was delayed while 740 Rangers fans were moved due to concerns over the stadium roof, many were shocked the game was allowed to continue. In January 2000 Celtic called off a game against Inverness Caledonian Thistle hours before kick-off because of storm damage to the roof. The then manager of ‘Caley’, Steve Paterson said:

 “My players went out and had a look at it and we all agreed that if the game had not been called off we would have refused to play.”

In June of this year Dave King said:

As unfortunate as it is true that Ibrox and its surrounding environs have been sadly neglected for many years.” He claimed that during the final years of David Murray’s reign at Ibrox the bank put club finances “under so much pressure” that stadium upkeep was, “relegated to essentials only”.

On the rare occasion where there is disagreement between the SAG and the event organiser, and there remains a genuine risk to the public, individual organisations on the SAG, such as the police may decide to act to resolve the issue. Decisions on these powers are matter for the local authority, in this case, Glasgow City Council, not the SAG.

Someone from Glasgow City Council, or if they won’t act, the Holyrood Government, has to have their voices heard loud and very, very clearly.

People’s lives could be at risk.

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