ROTHERHAM United have been fined £150,000 for a problematic evacuation at its stadium during a non-match day event.
The Millers were fined at Sheffield Crown Court yesterday (Monday) for failures which came to light during a fire alarm at the New York Stadium on January 10, 2015, while two functions were taking place in the West Stand.
There was no fire and no-one was hurt but the fire alarm highlighted problems with how evacuations were co-ordinated between the club and its catering and hospitality partner, Centerplate.
There were 285 people at the stadium - 195 at a beer festival organised by Rotherham CAMRA on the first floor and 90 people, many elderly, at a festive lunch organised by The Lanes Community Centre in the club’s 1925 Suite.
Rotherham United's operating company pleaded guilty to a single offence under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and agreed to pay £150,000 and £14,500 costs.
American firm Centerplate, which has a UK base in Stoke, was fined £130,000 with costs of £7,500.
Judge David Dixon said that beer festival guests had been escorted to fire escape which was locked but that neither defendant was to blame for the mistake because it was down to "human error".
"Centreplate's duty manager tried to direct those with mobility issues to the lifts, but they didn't arrive," said Judge Dixon.
"As a consequence, the visitors were directed to the service lifts, which again didn't arrive."
Judge Dixon said staff did not know how to use the four evacuation chairs and guests were not fully evacuated until 15 to 20 minutes after the alarm first sounded.
The club said in a statement that it fully accepted its procedures at the time in relation to such events were "not as robust as they should have been".
They said that following the incident they launched an internal investigation and, along with their hospitality partner, took remedial steps to introduce more robust procedures.
The club said they were disappointed that the incident had not met the high standards it continually strived to achieve.
The statement said: "In sentencing, the judge praised the club for its contribution to the local community and its conscientious approach in the specific improvements made at that time.
"Further, the judge accepted that there have been no incidents since and no ongoing issues with non-match day safety.
"Whilst the case did not relate to match day safety, the club was pleased at the judge’s recognition that there was and is no issue with the club’s approach to match day safety and 'that it has nothing but the highest regard for the safety of visiting and home supporters'.
"The club has always taken its health and safety responsibilities extremely seriously.
"Provision of a safe stadium from which football and many other social events can be enjoyed by the local community is, and always has been, at the heart of everything the club does.
"The club is glad that the matter has now concluded and it can move forward focussing all of its efforts on pursuing continued success both on and off the field."
For more on this story, see Friday's Advertiser.
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