However, it is clear to see that from last Sunday’s overcrowding of the stadium, the authorities (namely the stadium management and the participating teams) care very little about safety. A wild guess put the number of people at a little over fifty thousand fans!
But here are some examples of the kind of bad things that can happened if our authorities turn a blind eye to overcrowding at the National Stadium.
1. Ibrox Stadium, Glasgow (1902, 1971) – At the home of Scottish club Rangers on April 5, 1902, an overcrowded stand collapsed, killing at least 25 people and injuring close to 600.
2. In another situation in Guatemala City (1996) & in Buenos Aires (1968) in Latin America, tragedy struck on October 16, 1996. Forged tickets apparently contributed to mass overcrowding, causing fans to tumble down the terrace as more tried to squeeze into the overcrowded stadium. At least 82 people were killed.
3. One of the most-remembered stadium accidents is the one at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield in 1989. Amid a series of deadly UK stadium disasters, Hillsborough stands out as the worst and perhaps the one with the deepest wounds, as can be seen by the numerous investigations and trials that have resulted over the past 30 years.
4. Overcrowding during the match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest led to fans being crushed against stadium barriers: 96 people were killed and 766 injured. Even today, Liverpool FC players still wear jerseys with the number 96 on their collar, in honor of those killed.
Now coming back to the unfortunate situation in Sierra Leone; there seems to be no hard and fast rule in the number of people that can be allowed into the National Stadium at one go. The ticketing system is not helping at all. Rather than practice the selling of numbered tickets (as done in other countries) which helps determine the number of persons entering the facility to as to observe and maintain strict crowd control methods, they prefer to look the other way, until one fine day, one of the bad and horrific examples highlighted above, may just be our unfortunate outcome. God forbid!
But the sad reality is that, unless the Ministry of Sports and football stakeholders in addition to the Sierra Leone Premier League Board and other players come together and formulate a system of ticketing that would help observe and maintain strict crowd control measures, to know and control the number of people accessing this very old National Stadium, we would definitely expect disaster to strike at any time. Not doing anything about this will be like turning the National Stadium into a death trap. God forbid!