The death of Leyton Orient fan Derek Reynolds must act as a wake-up call to improve safety protocols in sporting venues, a Sutton campaigner has argued.
Reynolds, 74, passed away after suffering a suspected heart attack in the stands during Leyton Orient’s League One clash with Lincoln City on Tuesday 3 October.
With another life being lost in the stands, campaigners are calling for the improvement of safety procedures at sporting events.
Among the most vocal activists is Clare Parish – whom the incident at Brisbane Road would have hit particularly close to home.
Clare is the daughter Paul Alan Parish, who died on 29 January 2022 after suffering a cardiac arrest at Craven Cottage during Fulham’s match against Blackpool.
She said: “It’s just a shame that something like this has to happen for it to become a talking point again.
“We’re over a year and a half on from what happened to Dad and things still haven’t improved.
“How many times does this have to happen for sports venues to look at their protocols and wake up?”
Since her father’s passing, Clare has made it her mission to make Basic Life Saving (BLS) training more accessible, founding The Paul Alan Project with this cause in mind.
The project provides free training in how to recognise signs of cardiac arrest and how to save a life, as well as raising funds for public access defibrillators.
In her fight to improve the safety protocols in sporting venues, Clare believes that every member of staff – from safety stewards to cleaners – needs to have BLS training.
“For me, it’s a no brainer – everybody needs to know how to recognise the signs of a cardiac arrest,” she added.
“Whether you work in a ticket office, or whether you’re cleaning the toilets at half time, every single person who works in a sports stadium should know how to recognise a cardiac arrest.
“They need to know how to act quickly, to respond quickly, to hopefully save someone’s life.
“It comes down to education. Recognising those signs, having protocols, talking about those protocols, making the fans aware of what the protocols are – because there is no point in having protocols in place if the fans don’t know what they are.”
In light of the incident at Leyton Orient, some on social media criticised the match officials for supposedly taking too long to stop the game after being notified of Reynolds’ medical emergency by fans.
However, Clare believes halting the game isn’t always the best course of action – especially when the situation is handled correctly.
She added: “Sometimes the best course of action is for the game to continue, when a cardiac arrest is well managed, because if the game is halted, you get this dispersion of the crowds.
“When Dad collapsed, people thought, ‘well, this game’s not going to go on any time soon, so we’re going to go to the bar and we’re going to have another drink’. Then there was mass congestion in the concourse.
“There could also be medical emergencies elsewhere, in areas the safety stewards are no longer manning.
“So, when you have people contained and the game is still going on, you have that oversight of everybody in the crowd. So that’s why the game should continue.”
Clare is happy to talk to anyone who may have been affected by what they witnessed at Brisbane Road – her contact details are available here.