October 9, 2019 10:29:04 AM
Manchester United say they have taken steps to improve fan safety following the death of a supporter after a fall at Old Trafford two years ago.
Richard John Whale, 80, died from head injuries sustained after falling down a flight of steps while leaving the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand towards the end of a game against Manchester City in December 2017.
The cause of death was ruled as accidental at an inquest in November 2018 but the coroner noted that the positioning of two stewards had been a contributory factor.
The stewards were stood either side of the staircase, effectively narrowing the exit and blocking access to both handrails. There was also a “lack of awareness by the stewards of their surroundings,” according to a ‘Report to Prevent Future Deaths’ written by the coroner, Alison Mutch.
The report, sent to United and the local authority, recommended changes at the stadium due to “a risk future deaths will occur unless action is taken”.
The report revealed that United accepted the stewards “were not complying with the code of conduct” but it also stated, “there was no evidence of regular audits of stewards and their compliance with the code of conduct”.
United say they have acted upon the areas of concern regarding safety made in the report.
A club spokesperson said: “Everyone at Manchester United was deeply saddened by the death of Mr Whale and the club continues to extend its sincere condolences to his family.
“The health and safety of all supporters and visitors at Old Trafford is of utmost importance to Manchester United and we go to great lengths to ensure procedures are monitored and adhered to at all times.
“We work with independent safety inspectors from the local council, as well as national stadium safety inspectors, to ensure the correct procedures are administered.
“We were fully compliant with all applicable regulations at the time of this tragic accident and the coroner’s investigation resulted in a conclusion of accidental death.
“However, we constantly seek to learn and improve on our procedures and we welcomed the observations in the coroner’s report on opportunities for further risk reduction, which we have now implemented.”
A spokesperson for Trafford Council said: “Following the inquest into this tragic incident, the council worked with Manchester United to implement the recommendations of the coroner to ensure the safety of all fans and visitors to the stadium.”