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CPD for safety officers?

Is there a need for compulsory continuing professional development (CPD) within the role of a Safety Officer at a Football League Club? asks Ian Mixter. In our February 2017 print issue, we featured him and a Saturday match day at League One team, Oxford United Football Club. That question was the starter for his dissertation towards his BA degree in Crowd Safety Management at Buckinghamshire New University. Here’s a digest.


The safety officer role at a football stadium unlike others connected to safety does not require regular CPD for safety officers to remain qualified in their role. Roles ‘on pitch’ also require CPD to remain ‘professional’ . This study forms part of a growing body of research showing a move towards the use of CPD as part of the ‘professionalization’ of roles.


An article on the Hillsborough disaster in the May 2015 print issue of Professional Security magazine ‘Lessons from Hillsborough’ raised the question: what is competent? Reported events at Hillsborough followed a ‘pattern of danger’ to incidents that occurred prior to and after the tragedy. The Hillsborough inquest jury answered 14 set questions to decide how 96 people died. The answers showed clearly, among other factors, that a failure to manage the crowd was a major contributing factor.

The Taylor Report into Hillsborough identified that ‘it is not enough to aim only at the minimum measures necessary for safety. That has been, at best, the approach in the past and, too often, not even that standard has been achieved. What is required is the vision and imagination to achieve a new ethos’.

Ian left the police in July 2015; to be operationally ‘competent’ in a Silver [tactical] or Bronze [operational] commander role a police officer had to fulfil a number of modules or phases within a set criteria. The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA, 2011) noted that the formal assessments for such a role would be: a) a pre-course knowledge assessment completed on line; b) successful completion of a theoretical / practical course; c) assessment in the workplace to show competence in operational delivery; d) a requirement for yearly CPD; and e) reaccreditation in the role(s) using specified criteria.

During the 2015 / 2016 football season Ian has been employed as the deputy safety officer (SO) for Oxford United; the Green Guide (2008) notes that the holder of this or the safety officer role must ‘hold or being working towards’ a level 4 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in Spectator Safety. Evidence suggests that some safety officers employed within stadiums have no formal crowd management qualification.

The Green Guide (2008) states that a safety officer will be ‘operationally competent’ in the role when they have ‘sufficient training, experience and knowledge to implement the role.’ In terms of educational qualifications it recommends that an SO have or be working towards a level 4 spectator safety qualification’ It defines a competent individual as one who meets the national standard and includes knowing limits of personal knowledge, skills and experience. There is no requirement for refresher training. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE, 1999) state that a ‘competent person is someone who has sufficient training and experience and knowledge and other qualities to allow them to assist you properly.’

Ian, as a Silver commander in the police, was required to comply with set criteria to be operationally deployable and competent; this included initial qualification and refresher training. A Safety Officer or Deputy Safety Officer at a football stadium, the person with overall responsibility for crowd safety requires no initial qualification with the role requiring no refresher training. Ian sought to answer the question: is there a need for compulsory CPD within the role of a Safety Officer at a Football League club?

A large number of UK professional bodies have policies relating to CPD. The Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) offer CPD guidance to its members. Members of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) are required to undertake 35 hours per year of recorded CPD. Disadvantages of compulsory CPD are the potential for bureaucracy involved in monitoring. However it is notable that professionals will be more likely to participate in a compulsory CPD scheme than a voluntary one. What can count as CPD? It could be a work-based project; expansion of working tasks; acting as a coach or mentor to another; role negotiation; shadowing; or 360 degree feedback. Reasons for doing CPD may be updating professional knowledge or individual competence; and improving mobility in the workplace.

The methodology for the research took the form of a case study and a review of initial qualifications plus CPD requirements for a number of professions connected to stadium safety and match day operations at a football ground. At interview, a Safety Officer, former Deputy Safety Officer and Chief Steward all agreed that their role was ‘to keep people safe’. All participants understood the meaning of CPD and were able to explain the term. All interviewees believed that CPD should be a role requirement for the Safety Officer. However there was no clear consensus amongst those interviewed as to how much time should be dedicated to CPD. Though not part of the research it was clear from the responses from the interviewees that the CPD they all wanted would need to be monitored to ensure compliance.

Football related professions – football club manager, referee, police, ambulance – stipulate an initial qualification within the role requirement and the majority require compulsory CPD with the only exceptions being a builder and a groundsman. However, the Institute of Groundsmanship intends to introduce a CPD scheme within two years.

The case is clear. Compulsory CPD should be a role requirement for the job of a Safety Officer.

Keith Still noted (2016) that when an organisation does not invest in education and training the risks to safety are significantly higher; more is needed to be done in relation to foresight and planning in trying to prevent accidents and incidents.

Questions were raised for research: a) what is relevant for inclusion on a CPD syllabus for a Safety Officer? and b) is there a need for a professional body to represent all Safety Officers employed by football clubs and monitor their CPD? They can voluntarily join the Football Safety Officers Association (FSOA).

Picture by Mark Rowe: Hillsborough, the home of Sheffield Wednesday FC.


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