FIFA has concluded its first pilot programme in Africa as part of an initiative that aims to enhance stadium safety management standards in football.

In collaboration with the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA), the programme saw 14 member associations from the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (COSAFA) region engage in the new FIFA Stadium Safety initiative.

Safety at African football stadia has long been a concern for authorities, with several high-profile incidents in recent years. In September, five people died following a stampede at a stadium in Luanda, Angola.

Seven people were also injured during the incident, which took place at the Estadio 11 de Novembre. The venue was hosting the first leg of the African Champions League quarter-final tie between Luanda’s Primeiro de Agosto and TP Mazembe of DR Congo.

Helmut Spahn, FIFA Safety and Security Director, said: “Educating and sharing best practice with member associations plays a vital role in raising stadium safety standards internationally, as well as enhancing the consistency of safety and security policies that are currently applied across national stadia around the world.”

The extensive consultation process started in January 2019 with FIFA, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) and African Union (AU), the Council of Europe, UEFA, Sports Grounds Safety Authority, and the European Group of Football Safety & Security Experts.

The groups signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in February during the Ordinary Assembly of the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that stated FIFA, CAF and AU would implement common strategies and programmes that also focus on the areas of education, good governance and the fight against corruption.

COSAFA general secretary Sue Destombes said: “This initiative by FIFA is critically important to our Member Associations, as well as to the rest of the African continent, as it provides key learnings in safe-capacity assessments and safety management. Together, these steps will go a long way towards preventing further fatalities at what should be enjoyable entertainment for the Football-loving fans across the continent.

“What is key now is to maintain the impetus created by this pilot programme, for which COSAFA is very grateful, by organising ‘Train the Trainer’ workshops so that what was learned by the few during the past week will be taught to the many within our Member Associations, as well as those in government and the police, whose buy-in to these learnings and guidelines will be critical. COSAFA is committed, together with the assistance of FIFA and CAF, to continue what has been started.”

Image: FIFA