We were asked by Hammersmith and Fulham Council if we had any concerns about safety issues at Loftus Road. We asked our members and, as a result, the council’s QPR Safety Advisory Committee will be discussing several issues, and we are raising these directly with the club too.
Issues raised were:
Emergency evacuation arrangements. In parts of the ground it can take some time to leave the stand at the end of a match. As one long-term season ticket holder in the Upper Loft put it: “The time that it takes to exit the ground at a 3pm Saturday fixture (at any time of year) is both ridiculous and potentially dangerous. If it was at night and there was an emergency evacuation needed for a fire or another similar emergency, there is potential for serious injury or, heaven forbid, loss of life.”
The question is: What is the current Fire Strategy and Evacuation Plan for the Loftus Road stand and the stadium as a whole? Has it been reviewed and updated recently with the Stadium Safety Officer and Fire Marshals, together with the London Fire Brigade? We would like to have clarification on the policy for fire drills and what supporters in the stand will be asked to do in a major incident. How often do we have fire drills with the stewards and with a full stadium? Are these a requirement? We can’t remember having one recently.
Security searches. Supporters could not miss the fact that away supporters were able to bring flares into the ground on several occasions last season – including two consecutive games (surely stewards should have been more alert after the first incident). In the current climate the stewards need to be more vigilant.
Stewards and congestion. It has been reported that stewards have a dangerous habit of standing in some stairwells as fans leave. A supporter in F block raised the issue that one steward stands at the top of the stairs and sometimes one stands at the bottom causing a jam. There is the same problem at bottom of stairs exiting on to South Africa Road. They need to be at hand but not actually in the escape route.
Supporters have raised the issue of who employs the stewards. This point was raised: “The club should employ ALL of its own stewards not hire most of them in from a security/logistics company. QPR stewards know the ground inside-out and also know most fans in their area of the stadium by sight (and probably name). In an emergency, these details are very important and could make all the difference to a successful evacuation.
This has been raised before but it would be worth hearing from the club its current view on this issue.
Local authorities are required to have a safety advisory committee with statutory responsibility for safety at each football club in their area. These committees include representatives from the club, the police, various departments of the council, fire service, TfL and others. Last week the council officer who services the Safety Advisory Group for QPR asked if we had any views on safety issues, prior to this week’s meeting of the SAG. Issues identified will now be discussed there.
We also have asked the club to respond directly to the issues and suggested they would make good agenda items for the next Supporters’ Consultation meeting.
Thank you to all supporters who gave us your views. Recent events clearly show that the more we all know about safety procedures the better.