It's a race against time if the Newlands Rugby Stadium is to comply with safety laws. Photo: Ross Jansen

It’s a race against time if the Newlands Stadium is to comply with safety laws.

Failure to do so by early next year would make it nearly impossible for Newlands to host matches.

Despite numerous efforts to get comment, owners Western Province Rugby Union have not responded to questions about whether the stadium will be upgraded to meet the requirements of the Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act.

Eight Super Rugby home games, five Currie Cup home games, one Springbok Test and possible play-off matches are scheduled for the season.

The act came into effect in 2011 and stadiums were given three years to comply.

The legislation was drafted in response to the deaths of 43 people in a stampede at Ellis Park, Johannesburg, at a match between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates in 2001.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula's spokesman Anda Bici said the act applied to events attended by 2 000 or more people.

“The due date for compliance has not yet passed. The act was passed after long consultations and inputs by sports stakeholders. It remains our commitment to assist stadiums to comply with the act, upon receipt of requests.”

In 2012, the South African Rugby Union (Saru) and the City of Cape Town made submissions to the national Department of Sport and Recreation, asking that some of the regulations reconsidered.

Spokesman Andy Colquhoun says Saru does not operate stadiums.

“This is not our core business,” he said. He would have to research the matter further.

Among the regulations are that stadiums:

l Be evacuated within 10 minutes if there is an emergency.

l Have physical barriers that can collapse to separate a stadium bowl and its field in emergencies.

l Have a temporary or permanent heliport.

The regulations also specify dimensions for spectators’ seats: the backs should be a minimum of 50cm wide and 30cm high and, going up the tiers, there should be 80cm from seatback to seatback.

Newlands, with an official capacity of 48 000 spectators, would require 48 turnstiles – one to every 1 000 people.

The act also requires organisers to give the SAPS six months’ notice of a match. Failure to do so would give a commanding officer the authority to shut down a match.

In its 2012 submission, Saru raised concerns about the procedure involving police and about meeting the minimum safety requirements.

It said, among other things, that:

-The requirements would be “logistically impossible” to institute because the Newlands Stadium was in an established residential area.

- The cost of complying would make provincial matches financially unviable and ruin provincial rugby unions.

Representatives of the Western Province Rugby Union have not responded since last Friday to questions on the stadium’s safety standards.

Attempts were also made yesterday to get comment from Western Province Rugby Union president Thelo Wakefield, communications head Gavin Lewis and chief executive Rob Wagner, but they could not be reached.

Last week, Lewis said in an e-mail and in an SMS that a Cape Times query had been forwarded to the stadium owners.

The act also stipulates that stadiums that host low- to medium-risk events become compliant by 2016.

Gareth Bloor, the mayoral committee member for tourism, events and marketing, says the R4.5 billion Cape Town Stadium is fully compliant with the act.

“The safety and security plan of every event is carefully scrutinised by a multidisciplinary team of safety and security specialists, with final approval being provided by SAPS, who are the designated approving authority in terms of this act.”

The Athlone Stadium was being upgraded to ensure compliance with the legislation, Bloor said.

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