Safety fears over World Cup stadiumsGermany must take action over concerns

10 January 2006

Tests on the 12 stadiums hosting this year's World Cup have revealed that four have serious safety problems with fans' escape routes.

The German equivalent of consumer group Which? issued a warning today after carrying out the tests in the run-up to the tournament, which starts in Munich on 9 June. It said that, although safety in general has improved since the series of stadium disasters, such as Hillsborough and Heysel in the 1980s, some safety lessons seemed to have been ignored.

Stiftung Warentest fears there could be serious consequences at several of the stadiums if they had to be evacuated because of fire or panic, as fans would not be able to escape quickly enough.

The group says fans would be hampered by ditches and walls at four grounds. These are the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, and stadiums in Gelsenkirchen, Kaiserslautern and Leipzig. It also believes there are problems with fire prevention at several grounds.

Sad result

The Stiftung Warentest report says: `There are still faults in terms of safety, escape routes and construction which do not correspond to the latest technology.

'The importance of escape routes on to the pitch was shown by the disasters in Brussels (Heysel) in 1985 and in Sheffield (Hillsborough) in 1989.

'During a panic in the stands, spectators usually run down towards the pitch. Overall this is a sad result for such an important issue. Germany should have put international standards in place. But there are five months to go. This time should be used by those responsible to remove these faults as far as possible.'

If England reached the quarter-finals, the team would play at either Berlin or Gelsenkirchen.

But World Cup organisers insist the Stiftung Warentest study concentrated on possible crowd panic scenarios over and above the building regulations in force. Organising Committee Vice-President Wolfgang Niersbach said: 'The committee is open to any suggestions which aim to improve the general framework, and thus also the implementation of this incredible project that is the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

'We will, however, resist any unnecessary attempts at spreading panic which will only serve to create uncertainty among fans and harm the image and reputation of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany.'