Could Standard Operating Procedure have prevented the Accra Stampede?
This happened in the year 2001 which is also considered to be the annus horribilis for soccer in the continent of Africa and could be classified under a series of sports disasters that have happened over so many years we have records of. In fact what happened in this continent was that there were a series of deaths happening in football matches and it occurred in countries like The Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa & Ivory Coast. The match was played in the country of Ghana in its capital city of Accra between two fierce rivals Hearts of Oak & Asante Kotoko. The practical reality anywhere in Africa is that the crowds are generally unruly and no proper crowd control mechanism is available.
Right from the start the crowds were making harsh and loud noises and any decision made by the referee was not favourable to a particular team accompanied by loud boos resulting in the players in the field also letting out a few meaty challenges in the middle. For more parts of the game the fans of Kotoko were generally a happy lot as they were leading 1-0. Things took an ugly turn when an equaliser was scored by Hearts of Oak and this went from ugly to an even worser state when they took the lead. As a result of this lead taken by Kotoko, the fans began to get unruly and started ripping the stands and hurled out these plastic seats as missiles on the police providing security to the players in the ground.
Now the most important and the worst action were taken by the police to disperse the crowds i.e. the usage of tear gas. Tear gas is considered to be the bluntest of objects to use against crowds. This was considered to have been an act of blunder at the highest level because tear gas is designed and built to blind and disintegrate a crowd and could be effective only when a passage is vastly available for the crowd to disperse. In the case of a football stadium the reality is that the crowd entering and leaving the stadium have a specified path and the random dispersing of crowd is not possible due to the restricted pathway. Using a tear gas by nature of its blinding tendency did not give a scope for the crowd to move in an orderly fashion causing a stampede and subsequent death of the fans (officially recorded as 127) who had gone to witness this gruelling encounter at the stadium. The numbers were quite high because the gates were also locked leading to compressive asphyxiation. What was really hard to digest is that with a sound knowledge of this predictive crowd behaviour the business SOP in place should have been far more expressive in clearly stating the ammunition to have been used than choose anything arbitrarily. This can be concluded as an instance of the SOP meaning not clearly spelt for the desired need when things were already predictive in nature. The standard operating procedure also did not indicate the right size of medical staff to be available on duty in addition to their availability for the entirety of the match.
To summarise had the standard operating procedure clearly had the following details specified like the one mentioned below then we could have avoided the more causalities
• The type of ammunition for crowd dispersing had been explicit
• The size of the medical staff to handle such a crowd
• The medical staffs availability