Stadium Safety Not a Concern

Sean Rubis mulls over stadium safety in Malaysia.

This season has been a revelation for Sarawak football, so far at least. Top of the table with four games to play and just a point ahead of second-placed Sime Darby is a good place to be but shows that nothing can be taken for granted. On the pitch, things seem to be going smoothly but off the pitch is where the concern now lies. This is a story of Razali Paee.

I was at the Sarawak-Sime Darby clash on Friday, May 10. It was a brilliant game which Sarawak won 1-0 to finally take Sime Darby’s spot at the head of the table. Sadly, for Razali Paee, it would be the last game he’d ever witness. Borneo Post reported the story two days later and in that report, it was said that the “…called[sic] for help [was] promptly responded by JPAM and the police..”. This isn’t what really happened.

The game had been going on when sudden shouts were heard from the stands. Police closest to the side didn’t turn as maybe they had just assumed it was crowd cheering. It wasn’t until one police officer that was walking around the track decided to see what was happening. The crowd beckoned for him but he was hesitant. I would  be too if I had 1,000 people shouting for me. But he did eventually approach the crowd and realised something was amiss. He sent another policeman into the stand area to check while another police officer casually walked around the track to the grandstand to get the stretcher team.

By the time he reached the stretchers and got them to mobilise, Razali was seen being carried onto the track. It was only then did the stretcher rush to his aid.

This took at least 20 minutes. What part of that is prompt?

Razali was unfortunate. His heart gave out and maybe with quicker attention, he would have been in the stands to see Sarawak romp to a 7-0 against bottom side NS Betaria.

At every game, there is police presence. There are riot police. There are RELA personnel. But throughout the 90 minutes, they stand on the tracks watching the game. Are they not supposed to look after the crowds? Or are they worried players will go amok? In England, stewards spend the whole game watching the crowds. They do this so they can identify troublemakers and anticipate crowd mishaps. They are paid for crowd control, not to watch a football game.

What’s the score, lads? | Source: Author's photograph

That looked like a foul | Source: Author's photograph

 

This ordeal made me think. In the event of a calamity, are they drilled and ready to facilitate an evacuation? Even if they are, exits are blocked by lazy motorcyclists who want convenient parking and vendors who park their vans and cars at crucial evacuation points. Some even set up stalls right in front of the exit gates. It’s hard enough to leave under normal circumstances — what about in the event of an evacuation?

Stadium exits blocked | Source: Author's photograph

Inconsiderate motorcyclists | Source: Author's photograph

It’s also another concern that some vendors bring along propane tanks or charcoal grills to cook with.

The FAS, FAM, PDRM, JPAM and stadium management need to look into crowd safety.

My suggestions would be this:

  1. Let the riot police remain on the tracks but other personnel in the stands. The track is already protected by a barbed fence. How much more protection does it need?
  2. Anyone tasked with security and protection should be facing the crowds, NOT the game. If they want to watch a football match, they can buy a ticket and sit in the stands.
  3. Restrict a pedestrian-only zone of at least 20 meters around the stadium. Parking space is quite limited, but safety is more important than having to walk an extra 10 minutes.
  4. Vendors should not be allowed to cook on site.
  5. Set up first aid stations within the stadium.

Was it the management’s fault that caused Razali’s death? Absolutely not. It was one of those things. Was it their fault he didn’t get medical attention right away? Debatable. Fans pay to watch a game. The least FAS and the stadium management can do is to watch our backs.

Also, another disgusting thing I saw? People dressed in political party shirts and carrying a banner with their party logos on it. Sports is sports, politics is politics. Keep them separated.

 


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Sarawakian born and bred. Worked in human rights but is currently working on spreading peace through music. Typical man cliche; in a band, loves football and beers over liquor unless it's a bottle of an 18-year-old single malt whiskey.

Posted on 28 May 2013. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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