Organisational learning and risk in the British football stadia industry: A systems-thinking comparison of Hillsborough, 1989, and Wembley ‘Euro Sunday’, 2021.

Thomas Caley, January 2023

Football is an essential part of British social, economic and cultural life, but large stadia events present inherent risk. Crowd disasters recur worldwide. The Hillsborough tragedy of 1989 and subsequent Taylor reports triggered a far-reaching modernisation of the troubled British stadia industry. However, events at the delayed ‘Euro Sunday’ 2020 final at Wembley stadium 2021 reveal continuing threats to safety. Systems thinking and organisational accident theories understand complex, interacting, concatenating factors at the heart of mishap, and provide a framework to compare Hillsborough and Euro Sunday. This paper examines organisational learning and risk factors in the British football stadia industry, aiming to underline areas for mitigation and present wider opportunities for learning. A socio-technical perspective borrowed from Challenger and Clegg (2011) guides analysis, assisted by crowd science and sociological risk reduction theories. Primary data from interviews complements official reports and other secondary sources for thematic interpretation. Findings suggest significant improvements and learning in the British stadia industry but also continuing safety risks.

Translate »