Stadium safety: leaving nothing to chance

10 June 2008

Stadium security is back in the spotlight following the deaths of 10 spectators at a recent 2010 World Cup qualifying match in Liberia.

While the jury is still out over the causes of this tragedy, it has once again highlighted an emotive issue. The rumblings over whether South Africa was capable of hosting a World Cup first started when 43 spectators lost their lives at a Kaizer Chiefs/Orlando Pirates match back in 2001.

The Project 2010 column: Craig Urquhart It was the worst accident in South African sports history, surpassing a stampede a decade earlier, when 42 people died during a match between the same two teams in the mining town of Orkney.

Danny Jordaan, who was the CEO of the SA Football Association at the time, called for cool heads. He reminded the international community of similar tragedies like Heysel in 1985, when 30 people died during the European Cup final, or Hillsborough (four years later), when a stampede left 96 Liverpool supporters dead.

Nevertheless, Jordaan took the painful decision to postpone plans for the launch of the country’s 2010 bid. A commission of inquiry was conducted and a number of recommendations were made.

And since South Africa was awarded the rights to 2010, many more safety measures have been introduced at stadiums around the country. It’s safe to say that spectator safety is unlikely to be a problem for either the 2009 Confederations Cup or the 2010 World Cup.

As part of Africa’s 2010 legacy, it is crucial that South Africa shares these lessons with the rest of the continent.

Urquhart is a former Fifa World Cup media officer and the current editor of Project 2010