Whether attending a relatively small professional sporting event or a large-scale event such as the World Cup finals, many people fail to appreciate the preparation and the training required to ensure the safety and security of participants and those in attendance. When you consider that the 2012 London Olympics involved 70,000 volunteers, all of which required some kind of training and guidance, this puts the challenges into context. If you also consider the new £1 billion Tottenham Hotspur Football Club stadium, the opening day has been put back on numerous occasions while the club and local authorities perfect safety procedures.
We are not suggesting that all sporting events will attract tens of thousands of people, but even just a few hundred unexpected attendees can be challenging unless training and guidance has been sufficient.
Training In A Nutshell
This is perhaps the best description of training you will ever come by:-
“An educational, informative, skill development process that brings about anticipated performance through a change in comprehension and behaviour.”
We will now take a look at the various elements in more detail, the challenges, difficult situations and the expectations from a legal point of view with regards to accidents and injuries.
Whether you are at the top of the security management tree or a volunteer giving up your time to assist with safety and security at a sporting event, all roles are vital and part of a seamless operation.
Ensuring Management Instructions Are Clear And Concise
This is fairly straightforward, if the management of a sporting venue/event are not clear about their role and that of others, how can they portray this to staff? It is therefore vital that a simple list of goals and tasks are defined from day one.
Why Specific Actions Are Required
The best way to ensure that all parties are singing from the same hymn book is to not only ensure management instructions are clear and concise but state clearly why specific actions are required. If members of staff are able to “buy into the overall occasion” they will understand certain safety procedures, the knock-on impact they can have on other areas – for example something as simple as ensuring parking facilities are managed correctly. Keeping a constant flow of vehicles will help to avoid crowd surges. If not managed correctly, this can lead to bottlenecks and potential crush injuries.
Detailed Instructions On Specific Actions/Roles
So we have defined management instructions, the specific tasks required and then we move on to the detailed instructions regarding how specific actions/roles should be carried out. This top-down approach depends on all parties communicating in an orderly manner with clear and concise instructions. One weak link in the chain can place staff, crowds and participants in potential danger – it is advisable to avoid simple word-of-mouth instructions with handout written instructions/guidance much more useful.
Guidance for sporting event safety and security highlights three specific areas for training which are:-
- Event security staff/assistants
Over the years we have seen a number of sporting disasters in the UK were a lack of coordination has led to fatalities. In reality, the vast majority of these incidents tend to come down to crowd control which is fairly easy to manage in theory but has many challenges in practice.
Summary Of Specific Roles At Sporting Events
The best managed sporting events make everything look simple, from crowd flow to stadium management, protecting the playing area to evacuation procedures. If you think about it, trying to control a crowd of people who are generally pumped up watching their favourite sporting event, indeed some may be inebriated, can make them extremely volatile and unpredictable.
As we touched on above, the role of a parking attendant at a high profile high attendance sporting event (or even ones with low to moderate crowds) is extremely important. There is evidence to suggest that mismanagement of parking facilities can lead to delays in people arriving at the stadium and potential crowd control issues. This is often the first area in which tickets and passes are checked to limit crowd numbers within legal constraints.
Whether you have attended a high-profile football game, cricket match or any other type of sporting event, you will pass a number of stadium security staff on your way to the ticket turnstiles. This is a subtle but extremely important role, one which includes issues such as securing perimeters, dispersing gathering crowds and verifying ticket credentials.
While this may seem to be one of the simpler activities at large sporting events, it is as important as any other role. It is essential that tickets are checked and valid attendees waved through as quickly as possible. It is also important that those with suspect tickets or other issues are removed from the area as soon as possible for further investigation. Hold-ups at the turnstiles, as we have seen with many sporting disasters, can often lead to uncontrollable crowd surges and potential threat to life.
If you were left to your own devices to find your seat at a stadium you had never visited before it’s not as easy as you might think. As a consequence, the role of ushers is also important because it not only ensures the constant flow of crowds but also ensures that they are directed to the correct area/seats. This also brings into play the idea of crowd control inside stadiums and ensuring that individuals are seated at all times which can help avoid potential flashpoints. It is also the role of ushers to ensure that exit routes are clear at all times.
Concessions And Maintenance
Concessions are a major part of income for sporting clubs whether we are looking at club merchandise or simple food and drink. There is a great responsibility for those delivering such services to be quick and efficient, avoiding potential crowd issues, and ensuring a simple but safe queueing system. A free for all at the concessions outlet cannot only lead to overcrowding but can often encourage flashpoints and aggression between individuals. The role of maintenance ensures that spillages are cleared up and any obstructions are removed as soon as possible.
Pitch Side Stewards
When we watch large sporting events on television it is easy to under-appreciate the role of pitch side stewards. For 99.9% of the time they can look as if they are “doing nothing” but they will be constantly monitoring crowds, quickly address potential flashpoints and prevent unauthorised entry onto the playing area. Just recently in the UK we have seen a number of attendees unfortunately gain access to the playing area and confronting sporting participants. As a consequence, we are likely to see further training and strategy guidance from the Football Association to ensure the protection of football players as well as referees and other officials.
Preparing For A Worst-Case Scenario
Just this week it was announced that Tottenham Hotspur Football Club will be holding a “test” event at their new £1 billion stadium which will involve 30,000 people watching a reserve football game. In reality the systems, training and equipment is already in place to ensure the safe well-being of attendees and those participating in the game. This perfectly illustrates the fact that in theory it is relatively easy to map out a plan for security and safety but in practice various elements can change and often do so. As a consequence it is vital that:-
- Staff are trained to expect the unexpected
- Crowd issues are identified and addressed immediately
- Backup plans are in place
- Exit routes are clearly defined
- Staff are trained to remain calm in difficult circumstances
While there has been criticism of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club for the delay in opening the new stadium, the reality is that the local authority/police will only issue a safety certificate when everything is in place.
Common Injuries At Sporting Events
When looking at crowd control and the security of attendees/participants we do tend to see common injuries when a degree of control is lost. These include:-
- Crush injuries
- Cuts and lacerations
- Broken bones
- Injuries as a consequence of violent altercations
There are many different legal obligations spread between stadium owners, event organisers and security management. Each of these parties has a legal obligation to ensure the well-being and safety of not only attendees and participants but also members of staff. Substandard training has in the past been identified as a major problem with crowd control failures and as a consequence the system is now much more professional than it used to be.
The age-old perception that stewards are on a freebie when attending sporting events is a thing of the past. They have an extremely important role to play and one weak link in the chain can put the security and safety of events at risk.
Training, training, training is a vital part of maintaining a safe and secure environment in which to enjoy sporting events. This begins with top level management who themselves need to define what they want done, how to do it and who will carry out these actions. Once these issues have been addressed and guidance, instructions and training administered, you could argue that the real challenges start from the bottom up. The car park attendants control the initial flow of traffic to events with the intention of avoiding bottlenecks which can prove extremely difficult to manage.
So, when you begin to dig a little deeper, those that make crowd control and safety look simple are often those that have the clearest procedures in place and taken significant time to prepare their staff for events.