A lot of work takes place ‘in the background’ in order to design and build safe, quality environments for sports, both at grassroots and elite level. There’s a plethora of industry standards covering all aspects of a typical facility – from playing surfaces and equipment to lighting and building regulations. Sports facility builders and equipment manufacturers also work in partnership with testing laboratories, to ensure that all products and materials used within sports are safe.
As the trade association for the sports construction industry, SAPCA and its members are actively involved in creating safe, inspiring environments for physical activity. At the heart of SAPCA’s work to improve quality is its ongoing Technical Programme, which drives higher standards in the industry.
“As well as developing our own standards for use within the industry – through the series of SAPCA Codes of Practice for the design, construction and maintenance of facilities – we work closely with sports organisations and other bodies,” says Mark Oakley, chair of SAPCA’s Technical Committee. “We also provide vital input into the processes through which British/European Standards are developed.”
Brexit – what will change?
As a member of the European Union, the UK’s industry standards for sports – just like other sectors – are linked to European regulations and guidance. The British Standards Institution (BSI) is responsible for channelling the UK’s input to the process. As part of this, numerous industry experts participate as members of the various British and European technical committees.
This system is set to continue, whatever the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations, as BSI intends to remain a member of the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), which is not restricted to member countries of the EU. Future trade between the UK and the continent will continue to be based on compliance with agreed standards.
Keeping up with change
To keep up with the rapidly changing sporting landscape, the sport industry’s safety and quality standards are constantly being revised. These changes are driven by a number of different factors and industry bodies. In the last few months alone, there have been updates to a number of existing standards.
In November, UK Athletics announced plans to make all throwing cages in the UK compliant to IAAF standard specifications over the next few years. In June, BSI published a new British standard for goalposts. In October, The Sports Grounds Safety Authority published the sixth edition of its Green Guide – seen as the industry bible – used around the world by architects and designers as a best practice guide for the development of stadiums.
These three changes in standards give a flavour of the varied way in which guidance can change – one initiated by a sports governing body, another by BSI/CEN and the third by a non-departmental public body.
Further changes are on their way, too. At the European level, work is taking place to create new standards for playing pitch shockpads, the use of synthetic turf indoors, and the methodology for sampling infill materials. And despite only having been published this year, the standards for goalposts are also under review, with SAPCA taking a leading role on the work within the UK, through its goalpost working group.
Leading the way
Some of the updates to standards – especially to do with safety – come as a result of particular incidents, as was the case with the throwing cages.
“Earlier this year there was a near miss incident involving a hammer at a league fixture, where we were fortunate not to see a serious injury,” says Michael Hunt, UK Athletics facilities and health & safety manager. “Following the incident, we conducted a thorough review of all UK cages. As a result, we defined a new UK cage specification, that will reduce the ‘danger zone’ of all cages and will provide increased safety for all facility users.”
The incident is an example of the ways SAPCA actively engages in the process of delivering safe spaces.
“We know that new throwing cages are costly,” says UK Athletics’ Hunt. “So we worked with SAPCA and its specialist contractors and manufacturers to develop a programme of cage modification – as opposed to replacement, which has been endorsed by facilities providers.”