No.2 The Turnstile


noun: turnstile; plural noun: turnstiles

Chick Young the well known Scottish Journalist speaks of turnstiles these days being ‘built like prison gates’. With that comment in mind its fair to say that your average football ground today behaves in a very different way to how it did at the turn of the 20th century. 

In Glasgow Hampden Park no longer has the same time worn appeal that it once had. 

The last 30 years have seen long periods of redevelopment of the Scottish national stadium making it the elite stadium that it is today.    The award of matches to Hampden as part of UEFA Euro 2020 (now rescheduled to 2021) is some indiction of the esteem Hampden is held in within the offices of UEFA in Nyon.

Hampden Park

The original Hampden Park in the south of Glasgow is said to have been the first ever public sporting venue to use turnstiles. Back in the early part of the 20th century huge crowds congregated for matches. The total capacity by 1937 was 150,000 and turnstiles provided a control mechanism for supporters entering the stadium.

The original cast iron turnstiles may have long gone in the upper echelons of the game but the concept has stayed the same.  Today, the Hampden turnstiles are as much mechanical devices as they are electronic tracking mechanisms.

The turnstile system has evolved from a simple counting device to a device that can, for example, count, scan a ticket, communicate via security teams to validate or reject a ticket. 

The end for the traditional turnstile came thanks to the tragic football events of the 1980’s.  This infamous Taylor report made it clear that there was a lack of rules and regulations regarding safety and security at football stadiums and other sports grounds.

The Government’s Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds, which was originally developed in 1973, was revised using recommendations for change from the Taylor Report.

This guide to safety is now used by football stadiums across the UK and includes chapters on everything from stewarding and fire safety to stadium security and of course the integration of modern turnstiles.


The use of cast iron for structural purposes began in the late 18th century.

Turnstiles have been a key part of football stadiums since the 1890’s when WT Ellison and Co. and WH Bailey Ltd developed a new form of solid turnstile.

Before the installation of Ellison’s turnstiles, football fans would often congregate and enter via designated simple gates. Often these gatemen couldn’t keep track of how many spectators entered the grounds.   However, as the numbers of people wishing to attend increased this led to unsafe overcrowding and increased access management was required.

In a wider commercial sense the use of a turnstile began in the early 20th century thanks perhaps to the invention of stainless steel.   In 1913, Clarence Saunders, an American grocer and entrepreneur, installed turnstile gates in his first Piggly Wiggly self service supermarket store in Memphis, Tennessee.

Saunders installed this turnstile systems to keep the self-service supermarket from overcrowding with customers.

The Modern Game

Turnstiles in today’s game have become beneficial to the business and operations of football.  

The devices tend to be integrated with other security systems such as CCTV, intercoms and barriers and are crucial access or crowd control systems.  

All turnstiles are made of high-quality and durable materials such as solid steel or stainless steel casing with cast aluminium, which means they do not buckle easily.

While traditional cast iron turnstiles have disappeared from elite stadiums many can still be found at the lowest levels of the game. 

The turnstile systems integrated into stadiums today are largely split into the following types:

Swing Gate – These can be used for either single direction or multi directional access, which allows both entrance and exit through the same gate. Swing Gates are not as secure as other designs but they can still be used to successfully restrict entry to areas. They can feature manual or automatic controls.

Drop Arm – These turnstile gates have three arms, which spin as the user enters. They are normally operated using a coin, ticket or card. They can also be activated remotely using push button release. The major issue with this type of barrier is that it is relatively easy for people to jump over them.

Full Height Turnstiles – These turnstile act like a revolving door and reach a height of around 2 metres. This height makes it impossible for someone to jump over the barrier, making it popular in football stadia and other sporting arenas around the globe. Operated using a number of methods such as, card reader, via a scanner or manually, these gates offer the best secure entry system.