A safety committee will be meeting behind closed doors tomorrow (Friday) to discuss arrangements for the MK Dons cup clash with European Champions Liverpool later this month.
The MK Council-run Stadium Safety Advisory Group meets at least twice a year and gives a chance for experts from the emergency services and the council to get together with the MK Dons to hone their procedures for dealing with thousands of people converging on the stadium in North Denbigh.
A special meeting of the committee has been called because of the number of spectators who are expected for the league cup third-round clash in the 30,000-seater stadium on September 25.
Other meetings were called in advance of summer concerts involving boy band Take That, ageing rocker Rod Stewart, and German heavy metal outfit, Rammstein.
Following previous meetings, action has been taken to, for example, suspend roadworks on the M1.
A meeting of Milton Keynes Council’s Regulatory Committee was held yesterday (Wednesday), to discuss the council’s safety certification procedures. MK Council issues the safety certificate to stadium:mk.
Cllr Paul Williams (Lab, Central MK), asked whether the stadium was considering “safer standing”, where supporters are officially allowed to stand up at games.
Licensing officer Ed Fisher said he had continuing concerns about the fact that some football supporters insist on standing up in the stadium. He said in some parts of the country, stadia are being built with seats supporters can stand up against.
He said: “At Dons, at the moment there are absolutely no plans to move to safer standing because that would mean changing to rail seating. If you’ve been to the Dons you will know there is persistent standing in certain areas.
“The issue for me has been “is that a safety issue”. I issue the licence to say the stadium is safe to use.
“I have looked at the issue of persistent standing there because I worry because the rake is very steep, and people standing, they all fall on top of each other like dominoes and some of them will fall off top tier.
“That is why, on the top tier, we have often net the front two rows so if there is some standing, people can’t fall off the ledge. On the lower tier the rake is very gentle, so so far we have considered it is not a safety issue even though people should be sitting.
“Particular football fans still want to stand, this is why there has been a work around with rail seats. But there’s no plans at Dons to introduce rail seating.”
Councillors also discussed what one member of the committee described as the “shambolic” way that music fans left the stadium after the Take That concert in the summer.
Mr Fisher said that on the day the plans in place were not as good as the stadium would have liked.
“On the day, it was clear that the plans they had in theory did not work out in practice and the stadium would admit, it was not good enough. People took a long time to get home afterwards and people took a long time to get in, partly because there weren’t enough searchers.
“Lessons were learned. For the next event, which was Rod Stewart, they put a lot more resource into the issue and by the time we got to Rammstein in July there was a new operational system in.”
The safety certificate at stadium:MK includes the outer concourse and has been made dependent on complying with a traffic management plan.
Officials are looking at issues like where people park and how they get to the stadium and wider issues “because of the potential for problems.”
Mr Fisher added: “We have had, at this council before, with the National Bowl fatalities on the grid road after an event where people, who are not in the best state of sobriety, have been walking along the grid road and that has caused accidents.”