More than 300 delegates at the UEFA-EU Stadium and Security Conference in Bucharest heard that safety risks at football matches are "an ever-present reality" and bring liability issues.
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Safety and security risks at football events, and the potential liabilities for organisers, were focal points of this week's annual UEFA-European Union Stadium and Security Conference, which took place in the Romanian capital Bucharest.
'Liability and Risks' was the theme of the gathering, which brought together more than 300 delegates from UEFA, the EU, national associations, clubs, police forces and other partners to discuss stadium safety and security in the European game.
The conference heard that safety and security risks remain an ongoing challenge for UEFA, national associations, clubs, venue owners and other participants, and can relate to stadium construction, violence inside or outside stadiums, the use of pyrotechnics or potential terrorist actions.
Risks are created by, among other things, failure to meet safety standards or comply with national safety laws; negligent safety instructions; insufficient entry or other controls at stadiums; and a lack of staffing.
Speaking to the conference, UEFA Executive Committee member and UEFA Stadium and Security Committee vice-chairman František Laurinec emphasised that safety risks were "an ever-present reality" at all football events – "and with risks comes liability," he added.
Laurinec urged all stadium and safety stakeholders to act fully in accordance with European and national law and good practice. "If we fail in that imperative, then the risk of liability becomes greater," he stressed. "That is why we must all commit to embracing the principle of an integrated multi-agency approach and take the steps necessary to demonstrate it in practice – not just for high-profile matches, but as a matter of routine."
The risk of terrorist incidents at matches had become a priority concern, Laurinec explained. "We have all been reminded that football events are a target," he reflected. "We must all pull together to counter the risk of terrorism. None of us can feel remotely complacent."
Laurinec welcomed the efforts being made by the EU to enhance the effectiveness of international police cooperation in this area, saying: "This cooperation is of the utmost importance in terms of minimising the safety and security risks to millions of European citizens who attend matches or reside in the cities or towns hosting football events."
All stadiums hosting major football games must conform to European safety standards. Laurinec continued: "To ensure that these standards are applied effectively, it is crucial for all stadiums to be regularly inspected by an independent public body with specialist knowledge of all stadium safety matters.
"We should all welcome such safeguards," he added. "The potential risks are way too serious. People's lives are at stake, and it is our job, our responsibility to ensure that supporters can enjoy a football event in a safe, secure and welcoming environment.
"We have been entrusted with that responsibility, and we must act upon it," Laurinec concluded. "And let everyone be clear, irrespective of whether you are a police officer, a stadium safety officer or an event organiser – failure to mitigate against foreseeable or preventable risks comes with risk of liability for the responsible party."