On February 20th this year I submitted a Freedom of Information request to Glasgow City Council.
It was a follow-up to a piece that I had published in December of last year, and it can be read here.
On March 22nd, 2017 I received the following reply to my FOI request:
Dear Mr Mac Giolla Bháin
REQUEST UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION (SCOTLAND) ACT 2002
We refer to your e-mail correspondence of 20 and 22 February 2017, in which you request that the following information be provided to you:
“I am a journalist, and I am requesting information under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.
I wish to receive all correspondence, electronic and conventional between Glasgow City Council’s representatives on the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) and Rangers Football Club for the months October, November and December of 2016.
I wish to receive all internal correspondence (electronic and conventional) between Glasgow City Council’s representatives on the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) and other members of the City Council (both professional officers and elected officials) apropos Ibrox stadium for the months October, November and December of 2016.
I wish to receive all internal memos, emails and minutes of meetings of Glasgow City Council apropos Ibrox Stadium for the months of October, November and December of 2016.”
We can confirm that Glasgow City Council (“the Council”) is treating your request for this information as a request under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (“the Act”).
The Council’s response is as attached and detailed below.
Glasgow City Council is a member of the Safety Advisory Group (SAG) which addresses safety in sports grounds, including the four main football stadia within the city. The Safety Advisory Group comprises partners from the Council’s Licensing Section and Building Standards as well as Police Scotland, Scottish Fire & Rescue and the Scottish Ambulance Service.
The primary role of the Safety Advisory Group is to provide advice and guidance to a football club’s safety management team on accommodating spectators safely within their stadium, including advice and guidance on sensitive issues such as spectator ingress and egress, crowd management, fire safety, personal security etc.
The Safety Advisory Group is also responsible for advising the Council, as the Licensing Authority for Glasgow, in relation to the issuing of General and Special Safety Certificates for the stadia under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975.
The Safety Advisory Group carries out its function having regard to the relevant recommendations set out in the Guide to Safety of Sports Grounds (“the Green Guide”) issued by the Sports Ground Safety Authority.
In terms of requests submitted under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 for information held by the Safety Advisory Group in respect of Ibrox Stadium, the Council considers that information to be exempt under Section 39(1) of the Act [‘Health, safety and the environment], whereby “information is exempt information if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, endanger the physical or mental health or the safety of an individual”, in this instance the physical or mental health or the safety of individual spectators within the stadium. For the avoidance of doubt any correspondence between Glasgow City Council and the Club regarding the safety at the stadium would be held by the Council’s Safety Advisory Group.
Ibrox Stadium is a high profile football stadium and, with a capacity of over 50,000, is one of the largest stadia in the UK. Given the high profile nature of the stadium there is realistic potential for information relating to safety and security arrangements to be utilised in the perpetration of a malicious act and, therefore, endanger the physical or mental health of over 50,000 spectators.
As the subjects discussed by the Safety Advisory Group at their meetings relate explicitly to public safety, specifically the steps taken to protect the physical and mental health of those in and around the stadium, the Council does not consider it in the public interest to publish information on the matters discussed at these meetings nor does it consider that the public interest would be best served by releasing documentation presented to or produced by the Safety Advisory Group that relates specifically to the stadia and measures taken to ensure public safety.
On balance, the Council is of the view that the risk of information being used for malicious purposes that could realistically endanger persons outweighs the public interest in the release of this information.
Taking into consideration the likely impact of releasing this information, on balance, the Council is of the opinion that, at this point in time, there is a greater public interest in withholding the information than there is in releasing it.
Notwithstanding the above position, by way of advice and assistance, we can confirm the following in relation to Ibrox Stadium.
We can confirm that Ibrox Stadium has a safety certificate issued under the relevant legislation.
At a meeting of the Safety Advisory Group on 26 April 2016, the Safety and Security Officer for Ibrox advised that, in addition to the usual annual inspection and testing programme at the stadium, a full review of the internal / external structures and plant and equipment was to be carried out. In response to questions from the Safety Advisory Group, the Safety Officer confirmed that it was the Club’s position that the stadium continued to provide for the reasonable safety of spectators. This was again confirmed at the meeting of the Safety Advisory Group on 30 June 2016 where it was agreed to renew the safety certificate for the stadium.
On 11 July 2016 the Safety Advisory Group became aware of comments that the Chairman of Rangers Football Club had made on the Club’s official website regarding the condition of the stadium. On 12 July 2016 the Chair of the Safety Advisory Group wrote to the Club seeking clarification on these comments prior to releasing the safety certificate. On 15 July 2016 the Club responded to the Council. Having been satisfied with the terms of the response received, the safety certificate was issued on 15 July 2016.
A copy of the correspondence dated 15 July 2016 from the Club is attached. Please be advised that we have redacted some details from this record, so as to avoid identifying the individual to whom the correspondence was addressed. This is in compliance with Section 38(1)(b) of the Act [‘Personal Information’].
At a meeting of the Safety Advisory Group on 21 November 2016 the Safety and Security Officer for Ibrox advised that the Club intended to carry out repair work on the roofing of three stands within the stadium with preparatory works scheduled to begin in early January 2017. A number of questions were raised regarding the technical aspects of the roofing repairs and further information on the proposed works has been requested from the Club.
At the said meeting on 21 November 2016, in response to further questions from the Safety Advisory Group, the Safety and Security Officer for Ibrox confirmed that it remained the Club’s position that the stadium continued to provide for the reasonable safety of spectators.
Following consideration of further information and documentation provided by the safety certificate holder, the Safety Advisory Group confirmed that it was satisfied with the assurances provided by the Club.
As with any safety certificate holder, the Safety Advisory Group have an on-going dialogue with Rangers regarding the repair and maintenance programme at the stadium.
For the avoidance of doubt, it is the management team of any football stadium that has ultimate responsibility for the safety of their spectators.
The information provided in response to your request is, unless otherwise indicated, copyright © Glasgow City Council 2017. It is supplied to you in terms of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.
I have reproduced this here as I think it is in the Public Interest to do so.
Similarly, I reproduce the letter supplied to me by Glasgow City Council which they referenced in their letter.
I have written today to the appropriate person within Glasgow City Council appealing their decision to deny me the information which I had requested.
“This request for information has been denied to me under the grounds that it is exempt
“In terms of requests submitted under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 for information held by the Safety Advisory Group in respect of Ibrox Stadium, the Council considers that information to be exempt under Section 39(1) of the Act [‘Health, safety and the environment.”
I do not accept this as I believe the information that I have asked for is in the Public Interest.
I look forward to hearing from you.”
The council has to provide a reply within 20 working days of receipt of an appeal.
It is my intention to publish any news of developments in this story here on this site.