The Football Licensing Authority

The Football Licensing Authority is an independent public body which was first set up under the Football Spectators Act 1989.

The Football Licensing Authority is funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

What is the purpose of the Football Licensing Authority?

The purpose of the Football Licensing Authority is to ensure that all football spectators regardless of age, gender, ethnic origin, disability or the football team that they support are able to attend sports grounds in safety, comfort and security.

What issues does the Football Licensing Authority deal with?

Originally the Football Licensing Authority was created to implement the Football Membership Scheme which was originally introduced in response to the disaster at the Heysel Stadium in 1985.

This idea was however, shelved by the Government in light of the final recommendations made in Lord Justice Taylor’s Final Report on the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster of 1989 – the Taylor Report.

According to the Taylor report the Football Licensing Authority has been changed with the following:

  • Monitoring local authorities’ oversight of spectator safety at international, Football Association Premier League and Football League grounds
  • Ensuring through a system of licensing that these grounds became all seated

Do all football clubs playing in England have to be all seated?

In 1992 a decision was made by the Government to allow football clubs participating in the Football League Second and Third Divisions (now termed League One and League Two) to retain some standing accommodation.

This would only be allowed, however, if it satisfied certain criteria.

How is the adherence to these criteria established?

These criteria are ensured to be established through a system of licensing from the Football Licensing Authority.

Which football grounds have to be licensed by the Football Licensing Authority?

All football grounds which are used for designated football matches must have been licensed by the Football Licensing Authority. This requirement is provided for in the Football Spectators Act 1989.

What is a designated football match?

According to the Football Spectators (Designation of Football Matches in England and Wales) Order 2000 a designated football match is any association football match which is played either at Wembley stadium, the National Stadium in Cardiff, or at a sports ground in England and Wales which is registered with the Football Association Premier League or the Football League as a home ground of a club which is a member of the Football Association Premier League or the Football League at the time the match is played.

What factors will the Football Licensing Authority take into consideration before granting a licence?

The Football Licensing Authority will take into consideration the following factors when deciding whether to grant a licence:

  • Whether the equipment provided, procedures used and other arrangements enforced at the ground are such as is reasonably required to prevent or minimise the effect of offences at designated football matches
  • That all teams playing in the FA Premier League or Football League Championship have all seated stadiums
  • That the teams playing in League One and League Two which have standing accommodation do so to the required standard
  • To such other considerations as the Secretary of State determines

Would a football club be allowed to play matches at a ground which has not been licensed by the Football Licensing Authority?

If a club participating in the Premier League or the Football League had a ground which was not licensed by the Football Licensing Authority they would not be able to play their home matches at that ground.

What would a club do in this situation?

If a club was put into this situation they would have to organise a ground share where they play their home matches at the ground of another club located in the same vicinity. The ground of the other club would have to be licensed by the Football Licensing Authority.

Safety Certificates

Do football grounds have to have a safety certificate?

There is a requirement for football grounds to have a safety certificate which is set to the safe capacity of a ground or a particular stand within a ground.  As well as setting the safe capacity of the ground or stand the safety certificate will also set out the detailed terms and conditions with which the certificate holder must comply if that capacity is to be maintained.

Does the Football Licensing Authority issue these safety certificates?

It is not the Football Licensing Authority which issues these safety certificates. They are issued by the local authority. Depending upon the area in which the football ground is located this will either be issued by one of the following:

  •       The county council
  •       Unitary authority
  •       Metropolitan or London borough

What are the main objectives of the Football Licensing Authority?

The following key objectives have been agreed between the Football Licensing Authority and the UK Government:

  • To ensure through guidance, assistance and monitoring that the local authorities perform their specific functions in relation to football grounds to a consistent and acceptable standard
  • The ability to reduce the level of involvement of the local authorities ensuring that football clubs take greater responsibility for spectator safety
  • To maintain and build on the achievements of the government’s policies on spectator accommodation at football grounds
  • To bring out a permanent change of culture, through advice and persuasion, whereby consistently high standards of safety are maintained at all football grounds in England and Wales
  • To ensure that football clubs and ground management take more responsibility on their own initiative rather than simply in response to requirements imposed on them by other bodies 
  • To maintain and enhance the Football Licensing Authority’s position as the leading authority on ground safety and standards
  • To maintain the Football Licensing Authority’s position as the premier source of advice and assistance to the government, local authorities, clubs and any other bodies involved with football grounds both at home and abroad