Development Blog - Taking Control

PROJECT Manager Jon Back returns with another blog on the ever-changing face of Home Park.

IT has certainly been a hectic couple of weeks since I last wrote. 

With the players and management back from their summer recess, a welcome buzz returns to Home Park - although I must say that the logistics of keeping the stadium operational, whilst keeping everyone safe and protected from the building works, is rather testing at times. 

Place on top of that the arrangements needed for pre-season friendlies; our journey back to Delden; the huge admin challenge that player-signings and new kits bring; the ongoing preparation of the stadium and our three playing surfaces. It is fair to say that some of the Argyle staff have not been able to enjoy any of the sun that has been scorching our newly laid turf in recent weeks. 

Incidentally, just in case you were not aware, we have webcams within Home Park, which we will be relocating from time to time during the build, which you can view by clicking here

At the Theatre of Greens, extensive ground works have continued.  The site of the old Far Post Club is now nearing the exact levels required for our new supporters’ bar. Mains services, laid an age ago, behind our main façade – notably gas & water – have caused some considerable head scratching. Nothing we’ve been unable to resolve though. 

This week has also seen our new match-day control room brought to site.  This building – a more basic version of the hi-tec modular constructions that will form our new club shop and ticket office – provides a near-perfect workspace. It is a great, self-contained and secure office, and now sits resplendent in green and white in the corner between the Devonport end & Mayflower terrace.  

This control room has to have excellent lines of sight; its new location allows us to work on other parts of the ground.  It has been purposefully sited in a position to enable it to be moved in the future, when the corner(s) of the stadium are developed. 

I often get asked about what exactly the control room does, who uses it, etc., so I thought we could look at that in a bit more detail. 

One of the outcomes that arose from the Hillsborough tragedy was that safety at football stadiums became the responsibility of the club, not the police. This means that event planning, management, staffing, and any response to disorder and safety issues lies with the club in the first instance, with established protocols in place for police intervention when required. 

The safety licence under which the stadium operates covers all operational plans, CCTV requirements, PA systems, and so forth, and is issued locally by the council.  It guides what we do and how we do it.

There are two bodies that oversee these issues: the national Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) – the government’s expert body on safety at sports grounds; and the local Safety Advisory Group (SAG), which is made up of senior people from the council, the police, the fire & ambulance services, plus others.

Together, these bodies ensure that regulations and guidance are adhered to, and that the more specific requirements of the local safety licence are fully met.  From personal experience, I can assure you that they provide rigorous, robust tests and challenge to what we do, to help ensure that together, we keep people safe when they are at Home Park. 

On match-days, the control room is the place where all of this is managed.  We employ a large safety team who are in full control of each ‘event’. This team includes a fully qualified and experienced match-day Safety Officer – effectively a regulatory position who is in charge of proceedings; a deputy; trained CCTV operators; a medical team and scores more. 

The control room is from where the Safety Officer and (in our case) his team work from, operating the radio systems, CCTV & emergency PA, among many other tasks. The control room is also where senior and specialist members of the emergency services operate from; the amount of police offers present in the ground varying according to the perceived level of threat from match to match. 

Contrary to rumours, it is neither where Pilgrim Pete changes, nor from where Semper is played! 

Looking to the future, we have now laid the foundations for our new shop and ticket office, and we are looking forward to seeing those buildings brought to Plymouth over the next couple of weeks, where they will be installed behind our famous old façade.  These buildings will take around eight weeks from installation to being open for use – I don’t know about you, but we can’t wait! 

As many of you will have seen, the old façade was in a perilous condition and we have had to work hard to stabilise and secure it for the future.  Large brick pillars have been constructed behind it, which have been ‘tied’ to the old wall.  Currently these ties look a touch unsightly, but we will be tidying them up over the coming weeks.

Personally, I am really looking forward to seeing how the new buildings will complement the art deco main entrance – I think it’s going to be a real signature piece of our stadium. 

So, that is all for now. I will be back in a couple of weeks when I will be able to report upon the progress of the new shop and ticket office, as <cough> it’s coming home. Well to Home Park anyway. Too soon? 

Keep it Green.