Reflections on security at future major events

Today, Ken Scott, Head of Inspectorate at the Sports Grounds Safety Authority (SGSA) spoke at the Host City 2018 conference. Here, he offers his reflections on security at future major events.

Ensuring safe, enjoyable events is at the heart of what we do at the SGSA. This not only means having a safe environment inside a stadium, but also on the way in and out of the ground…something we refer to as Zone Ex in the newly released sixth edition of the Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds (Green Guide).

As we have seen in recent years with the attack at Stade de France and at Manchester Arena, areas directly outside an event can be vulnerable ‘soft’ targets. Stadium and event operators can no longer think about the space outside the stadium in isolation. When considering safety, the sum of all parts is critical to creating as safe an environment as possible for everyone at the ground.

Alongside the Zone Ex, sports grounds operators should think about three clear areas for creating a safe environment:

  1. Security. At times there is a need to consider additional security overlays to manage risks at an event, whether it’s enhanced screening/searching, vehicle barriers, etc. At the same time, consideration must also be given to understanding the unintended consequences of these, for examples increased queues and delayed entry into a sports ground.
  2. Safety. The importance of overlay around a sports ground can sometimes impact upon the safe arrival, circulation and egress of spectators. It’s important that considerations are given when planning any security measures to ensure that safety isn’t compromises.
  3. Customer service. The need to balance safety and security against customer experience remembering this should be an enjoyable sporting event is critical. Fans attend a sports ground to watch and enjoy the spectacle – whether it’s football, rugby, athletics, horse racing, etc, everyone is there for the same reason. Engaging with spectators early on can help to reduce some of the unintended consequences of increased security. This could be providing additional entertainment inside the ground to encourage people to arrive early. The days of someone turning up to a stadium 15 minutes before kick off and expect to be in immediately are a thing of the past, so stadiums need to create ‘incentives’ to encourage early arrivals.

Whilst technology has its part to play, we should never lose sight of the important role of venue staff can play in overall safety equation. The most important asset a sports ground has in terms of safety is the staff. Effective and vigilant staff, who provide excellent customer service to those attending an event are a critical element to a safe, enjoyable experience for fans.

There is a risk attached to every event. The only completely safe stadium is an empty one. But there are ways to manage and mitigate risk effectively to create as safe an environment for fans as possible. The guidance provided within the new edition of the Green Guide offers the expert advice to support this aim.