07. Safe Holding Capacity

7.1 The maximum safe holding capacity should be determined for each event on the basis of the nett area available for viewing and the means of egress provided from each area.

The safe holding capacity will be the least of the following capacities:-

(a) entry capacity:

(b) holding capacity;

(c) exit capacity; and

(d) emergency exit capacity.

The method of calculating these capacities is discussed in the following paragraphs.

7.2 Entry capacity for enclosed venues will be a function of the number of turnstiles available, the rate of entry and the period allowed for entry. Guidance is given in Chapter 8 of the Code of Practice for Safety at Sports Grounds.1 For open sites, these principles will also apply and a careful assessment will have to be made of the rate at which steward- controlled gateways can admit patrons, within a notional period of two hours.

7.3 Where there is free movement between stands/terraces and the pitch it is very important to ensure that the points of entry/exit are of adequate width and evenly distributed. They should be located so that in an emergency situation they can be used in conjunction with exits from the pitch to effect the safe evacuation of all persons from the pitch.

7.4 In a stadium where sections of the stands/terracing will not be in use because of the position of the stage or for other reasons, appropriate reductions must be made to the holding capacity. In all cases the calculation of the capacity of the viewing area should take into account only those parts of the venue from which the stage can be clearly and easily seen, excluding gangways, stairways and landings (i.e. the available viewing area for calculation purposes).

7.5 Where concerts are held on open sites, the ground should be reasonably level for a distance of 25 metres immediately in front of the barriers. It is accepted, however, that slopes on open sites remote from the barrier can create a pleasant, natural amphitheatre effect.

The desirable maximum gradient for such viewing slopes is 1 in 6 (i.e., 9.5 degrees). In areas of the site to the rear of the mixer tower and remote from the stage, steeper slopes up to 1 in 4 (i.e., 14 degrees) may be acceptable, depending on circumstances. Excessively sloped areas should not be included in capacity calculations.

7.6 Occupant densities will vary according to the type of area and distance from the stage. The highest occupant densities will occur in the areas closest to the stage. It is essential that the means of egress provided from the pitch in these areas should be adequate for the increased density. This may mean increasing the number at exits close to the stage.

7.7 For holding capacity calculation purposes the following factors should be used:-

(i) for stands, terraces and viewing slopes the safety parameters in relation to underfoot conditions, crush barriers, location of exits, etc., set out in the Code of Practice for Safety at Sports Grounds should be adopted;

(ii) subject to the deduction of areas which will be sterilized due to the position of the stage, obstructions, sightlines, etc. the holding capacity should be calculated on the basis of:-

(a) the number of seats where seating accommodation is provided,

(b) one person for each 460mm length of seating where bench seating is provided,

(c) 0.5 m2/ person on stepped terracing,

(d) 0.75 m2/person on an acceptable viewing slope, with appropriate crush barriers and guarding, and

(e) 1.0 m2 /person on an acceptable viewing slope without crush barriers and guarding;

(iii) in pitches and open areas, subject to the deduction of the area taken up by the stage and other structures, and the deduction of areas sterilized by viewing obstructions (including the mixer tower), sightlines, etc., the holding capacity should be calculated on the basis of:-

(a) 0.5. m2 /person for the nett area available where there is only one front- of-stage
barrier, and

(b) where a multiple barrier system is used the holding capacity of the areas contained within the barriers should be taken as 0.3   m2 /person; outside of the barrier areas a figure of 0.5 m2 /person over the nett remaining area should be used.

7.8 On the basis of the figures calculated for the different areas separate means of escape must be provided to ensure that all persons in those areas can be evacuated into free flowing exit systems leading to a place of safety in not more than eight minutes.

7.9 If the available exit systems are not sufficient to deal with the crowd number calculated for the holding capacity, the safe holding capacity must be reduced accordingly.

7.10 Local circumstances may dictate that the evacuation time of eight minutes be considerably reduced, e.g., the construction of a stand or terrace may not only affect allowable egress time from the structure itself but also from the pitch area. Spectator accommodation which has, for any reason the potential for rapid fire spread should be assessed on an emergency evacuation of not more than 2 and a half minutes.

7.11 Admission should be by ticket only and the number of tickets sold plus complimentary tickets should not exceed the permitted safe holding capacity. A certified manifest of the tickets printed should be supplied to the Local Authority and Gardaí before the event.

7.12 It is the responsibility of the Promoter to set maximum capacities for each sector of the ground, in accordance with the recommended guidelines in consultation with the Local Authority and Gardaí. It is essential to have thoroughly secure systems of ticket production, distribution and admission to the grounds in place in order to prevent any abuses leading to overcrowding.
The control systems should be available to the Local Authority and Gardaí for inspection before and during the event, as requested. This section should be read in conjunction with Chapter 8 of the Code of Practice for Safety at Sports Grounds especially with regard to forged tickets and entry arrangements and Chapter 11 of this Code also with regard to entry to venue.

7.13 The system of admission to the grounds should indicate readily to the Gardaí, Event Controller and Event Safety Officer what the level of occupancy is at any given time. Once the agreed capacity is reached the gates should be closed even if it means that genuine ticket holders are refused admission.
The withholding of a certain amount of tickets to deal with this problem should be considered. It is of vital importance from the point of view of public safety that safe holding capacities should not be exceeded.

7.14 When any sector of the venue approaches safe holding capacity, systems should be in place, operated by stewards, to prevent further entry until accommodation in that sector becomes available. This situation can arise even if the principle of general access applies to most of the venue. Stewards, under direction from the Event Controller, should then direct patrons to other parts of the venue where spare capacity is available.


1. Code of Practice for Safety at Sports Grounds, Stationery Office, Dublin, 1996.