You may be familiar with the scenes from the Partizan stadium during the Serbia v Albania Euro 2016 qualifying game, when a drone carrying a pro-Albanian flag landed on the pitch. The violence that ensued both on the pitch and in the stands is a reminder of how quickly situations can change.
In recent weeks the skies over the UK have also seen an increased number of unmanned aircraft. Known as drones, these aircraft have been carrying cameras, filming above stadiums and capturing games and the images are being posted on the internet.
This is an emerging issue and we have not seen widespread use of these at sports grounds in the past. These recent incidents have highlighted the potential safety and security risks.
While the majority of sports grounds with safety certificates have standard operating and contingency plans in place in order to respond to unplanned incidents, clubs may wish to review their contingency plans to consider potential safety and security risks from the use of drones.
What are the risks of drones in sports grounds?
- Loss of control of the drone over spectators.
- Loss of control of the drone over or near a structure or building.
- Potential disruption to the sporting event, and possible consequences of that disruption.
- Potential terrorist activity.
What should I be doing to reduce the risk of drones in my sports ground?
- Gathering evidence of use of drones within the ground through CCTV, photographs etc.
- Asking stewards and staff outside the ground to remain vigilant, and if appropriate look for the operator (many devices have to be operated within a 100m radius).
- Advising staff on actions to take whilst the drone is within the stadium, which may include providing reassurance to spectators and continuing with existing duties.
- Identifying staff to monitor the drone’s activity from different locations to enable quick reaction to any potential issues.
- Considering communication with spectators via PA system, for example around authorised or unauthorised activity, reassurance messages etc.
- Considering whether any ancillary activity is due to take place that may affect the drone, for example pyrotechnics.
- Contacting Police and/or the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
- Considering what other contingency plans might be required or affected should an incident occur.