Ever wondered why we
need those men in orange coats?
Well I caught up with Chief Safety Officer, Tony Griffiths,
before our clash against Nuneaton Borough on Tuesday
and he gave us in insight into his role and those of
On a matchday Tony is charged
with sole responsibility for the safety of everyone
inside the Deva Stadium. Apart
from sitting up here, drinking coffee and keeping warm,
we're a waste of spacec, he joked. But joking apart,
the safety of all supporters is taken extremely seriously
around the Deva. Were here not only to
look after the crowd, but we also have to look after
the stadium. Everybody who comes into the stadium,
be it a supporter, player, director, you name it, we
have to look after them all.
Griffiths continued: My job spec says I am in
complete control of this ground on a matchday. So,
if I dont like the look of you, I can say Rob,
out you go and that's it. I could even ban the chairman
from the ground! That's how important it is. A lot
of people don't realise what stewarding is all about,
but if there were no stewards, the game would be called
Tony joined the club during
a difficult period, but after over two years in charge,
he has forged strong
relationships with the authorities. We have a
good working relationship with the club, the police
and the county council. When I came here a few years
ago, I just couldn't get any stewards. We were fighting
for survival, but now we've got forty six stewards
in on a matchday and we've turned things around completely.
Griffiths continued: It has taken us nearly
three years to get the safety certificate back up to
6,000 now, but the council will take that off us almost
immediately if we get any trouble. So if a supporter
on the North Terrace is asked if they mind not standing
on the steps, the steward is not doing it because they
want to, but hes doing it because of the safety
risk. It is part of the ground regulations. As I said
the council could cut us back to five thousand or less
as easy as that.
There were comments being made
at the time when we got the six thousand capacity
to the effect of, how
have they managed that without doing any building work?
Truth is, we don't need the building work, we just
need to keep the steps and gangways clear and safe.
Thats the long and the short of it.
Now, one of Tony Griffiths new initiatives,
is a desire to get all his stewards through the Football
Safety Qualification. If successful, Chester will become
one of just three clubs in the Nationwide Conference
to have achieved this standard. Since the Taylor
Report was issued after the Hillsborough disaster,
that is when training came into its own. When I first
came in a few years ago, everything wasnt really
taken that seriously, but now I believe we have to
train our stewards professionally. Were now starting
to work towards what they call the F.S.Q. that is the
Football Safety Qualification and every steward will
have to go on for this. In about two weeks time stewards
will be studying for their FSQ and once we achieve
that standard we'll be onto the football league standard.
I believe there are only two clubs in the Nationwide
Conference who have got to this standard. I know there
are several clubs in the football league, especially
in the Third Division who havent gone through
this yet, so this will put us in a better position
than many. That is why I am saying to all the fans
of Chester City, give the stewards the support that
they need. If they ask you to do something, the supporter
is doing it for themselves, not for the club. They
are doing it for their own protection.
People say to me, why
do you have to have so many stewards. The criteria
states that once we have
just one paying customer coming through the turnstyles,
we have to have a full complement of stewards on duty.
Like this evening, we even have Cheshire County Council
here who are observing us. So, if we don't do our jobs
right, they will kick our butts so to speak.
Thanks to the good behaviour
of our supporters, most Chester games now pass without
any police involvement
and Tony Griffiths firmly believes that this is down
to a wonderful group of fans. Depending on how
the season goes, we think around 80% of our games are
police free. Thats a credit to the supporters,
and is good for the club, as it costs us an awful lot
of money for police. If the supporters carry on like
they did last season, they will have done us proud
this year. Like you said Rob, not a lot of people actually
know what we really do. Id like to say that Id
be happy to show any supporter around the control room
by prior arrangement, particularly during one of the
quieter games if that would help give a better insight.
10 October 2002