Recent incidents of fan misbehaviour before, during, and after Western Sydney Wanderers games spotlight the role security plays at sporting fixtures … particularly fixtures where it is known the passions will be high.
Everyone wants to see and feel the passion at events – it is often the ingredient that turns a good event into a great one, with a memorable atmosphere.
But, the other side of this coin can be ugly. The side that shows up when passionate support erupts into anti-social behaviour or, worse, criminality and violence.
It needs to be managed.
And it is no walk in the park … but there are a number of actions that can significantly reduce the risk of that line being crossed – the line that separates passionate fan from anti-social hooligan.
Naturally, security is one of the key elements that can make a big difference.
But even getting the right security can be a challenge.
Your chances of success are determined BEFORE you hire a security provider …
The starting point is in the procurement of security services by venues or clubs. Clubs or venues have a duty to themselves, their players, fans, and the community at large to ensure a safe and secure environment is achieved. There is an obligation to ensure the security they engage are able to mitigate foreseeable risks.
So, step one for clubs: Know the risks. Have a security risk assessment completed.
This will enable you to clearly define requirements that need to be met by security providers tendering for your business.
Once you have the responses from requests for tender, they need to be carefully examined and compared … and credentials and references checked.
A common practice is to load up proposals with lucrative sponsorship deals, sometimes these deals are completely unrealistic. They can mean that you’re “paying for the sponsorship” through either inflated rates or reduced quality of operatives.
What do you need in security operatives at events?
As a general rule, security guards at sporting events need to be proactive in deterring anti-social and criminal behaviour.
Basically this means getting in first. Security needs to be alert and on the lookout for outward signs that indicate and identify spectators who may be “high risk”. As you can imagine, “profiling” spectators requires both training and intelligence. It is best done by security operatives at entry points and continued during the event.
Profiling is a proactive measure that protects the event from minority, high-risk spectators. It allows the majority of well-behaved spectators to enjoy an event that is both safe yet with the atmosphere they want to experience.
As well as profiling, it may be that your risk analysis identifies even stronger measures are needed. For some event events it may be necessary to use man and dog teams with scent detection training for accelerants (like gunpowder, flares etc). As well as preventing entry of dangerous materials these teams also provide a high level visual deterrent for anti-social behaviour.
In general, security operatives need to have a presence and provide a deterrent value to would-be troublemakers. Spectators need to have the confidence in security operatives’ abilities to ensure compliance with behaviour standards.
This “presence” can only come from security operatives who are confident and not intimidated by the challenges they face. Poor quality guards neither deter the troublemakers nor provide confidence to the rest of us.
In fact, poor quality guards can unwittingly encourage poor behaviour – they are often intimidated and will look the other way in many challenging circumstances. The troublemakers quickly discern this, their respect for security drops and the limitations on their behaviour are quickly broken.
Unfortunately, we currently face a situation where many security providers provide poorly trained and low quality security operatives to sporting events. At best, these operatives are reactive. Sometimes they are not even reactive and offer no reaction or response when early intervention is required.
All too often they have not been provided with any additional training in crowd dynamics or crowd psychology. They are probably not even aware of the exponentially increased potential risks of aggression due to anonymity in a crowd.
Stepping up the standards …
There are a number of reasons why poor quality security operatives end up working at sporting events, rest assured though it is the venue (or the club) that needs to set and maintain the standard of service they get. As mentioned above it starts with – even before – the procurement process.
- Know the risks. If you don’t know the risks how can you adequately define the quality and standards you need from your security provider.
- Ensure you security provider has a management team with the appropriate qualifications and experience.
- Be cautious of lucrative “sponsorship” deals. There is no such thing as a “free lunch” – you will pay for it in one way or another, usually in lower quality security operatives and service standards.
- Remember that quality, in any field, is rarely the cheapest solution.
- THE TRUE COST OF SECURITY OF SECURITY IS THE COST OF SECURITY FAILURE.
It is imperative that sporting clubs, venues, Police, and security work hand in hand to remove undesirable elements from sporting events and and provide a safe, secure and ejoyable environment.
The surprising thing is that many sporting entities are paying rates for security that should ensure they obtain quality security operatives.
All in all, Australians love to attend events where the atmosphere is palpable and engaging. Our responsibility is to ensure the atmosphere of an event doesn’t disintegrate into anti-social behaviour or violence. By “our responsibility” I mean the responsibility of all of us – fans, clubs, venues, police, security, communities.
There is no doubt that the quality of security provider – and security operatives – retained by venues or clubs can have a huge impact on delivering a better, more enjoyable environment for everyone.