The main legislation governing spectator safety at sports grounds in Northern Ireland is ‘The Safety of Sports Grounds (NI) Order 2006’.

The Order can be viewed and downloaded here. Safety at sports grounds rests in the first instance with the owners and operators of sports grounds and the Safety at Sports Grounds legislation is enforced by District Councils.

Background and Context

The Department for Communities(DfC) has a stewardship role in relation to safety of sports grounds and seeks assurance that the legislation is being implemented consistently throughout Northern Ireland. This assurance is provided to DfC at safety assurance meetings with Sport Northern Ireland (Sport NI).

Sport NI has been authorised by DfC to carry out inspections of sports grounds that have been ‘designated’, or that contain regulated stands. Sport NI has a Service Level Agreement with the Sports Grounds Safety Authority(SGSA) to carry out certain roles including authorised inspections of sports grounds, producing records relating to the maintenance of safety at sports grounds and training. Authorised personnel from Sport NI and the SGSA act on behalf of DfC.

Through regulations, DfC may ‘designate’ a sports venue which has a capacity in excess of 5,000 spectators. A statutory regulation known as ‘The Safety of Sports Grounds (Designation) (No 2) Order (NI) 2009’ initially designated 30 sports grounds in Northern Ireland and became operative on 31st December 2009. Download the current list of designated venues here.

Application of the Legislation

Each of the 30 designated sports grounds requires a safety certificate to be issued by a relevant District Council. A safety certificate will state the safe capacity of a designated sports ground and will also contain terms and conditions to secure the reasonable safety of spectators who visit that designated ground. Designated grounds must legally comply with the terms and conditions of a safety certificate to remain fully operational. Failure to comply with terms and conditions could result in notices being served, which could either reduce capacity of a designated ground or close a designated ground altogether.

Guidance relating to the Safety at Sports Grounds (NI) Order 2006 is now based on the contents of the sixth edition ‘Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds (commonly known as ‘The Green Guide’). The Green Guide is recognised around the world as best practice for the design and planning, and the safety management and operation of sport grounds. It is available to purchase in digital and printed copy from the SGSA here.

NOTE: In terms of the built environment, the SGSA guidance does not apply retrospectively and where appropriate, the Northern Ireland Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds – second edition (commonly known as “the Red Guide”) remains relevant.

Role of Venue Operators & District Councils

Role of Venue Operators:

  • Overall responsibility for the safety at sports grounds.
  • To comply with the terms and conditions of a safety certificate.
  • To comply with the requirements of the Safety of Sports Grounds (NI) Order 2006.

Role of District Councils:

  • It shall be the duty of every council to enforce, within its district, the provisions of the Safety of Sports Grounds (NI) Order 2006 and of regulations made under it, and for that purpose to arrange for the inspection of each designated sports ground within its district at least once every 12 months.
  • Councils should in performing its duties act in accordance with such guidance as DfC may give them.

Advice and Support

Requests for advice and guidance can be directed to Sport NI by e-mail at: