Security industry must be open on challenges

It was great to meet some familiar – and new – faces at The Football Safety Officers Association 30th anniversary Conference and Exhibition in March.

This is a chance for safety officers to share experiences and best practice, particularly given the fact we all cater for the same fans, often encountering the same issues.

It is equally important therefore that we use it as a platform to discuss challenges, as it is only through being honest and open that we can overcome these together.

One of the biggest problems facing the industry at the moment is the massive shortage of safety stewards which is making recruitment more difficult than ever before.

Stadium has been in the industry for 13 years and in that time things have really changed. If we did a recruitment session 13 years ago, we’d have 80 people turn up, but we’ve had recent sessions with just 10 per cent of that figure.

Because we have been in various lockdowns for so long and the economy has now opened back up again, we now have more events than we have safety stewards across the UK.

The demand for safety stewards is very much there which is why we have launched a major recruitment drive at Stadium to fill almost 300 roles in the West Midlands.

Nationally we all need to look at why it is difficult to recruit at the moment. Rather sadly, one thing that our staff up and down the country have noticed is an undeniable rise in levels of anger.

Figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council for this season up to December show arrests at football matches have increased 38 per cent from the 2019/20 season – up from 655 to 901.

In the media recently there has been several instances involving fans at football matches. A man who threw a plastic bottle onto the pitch and hit a player during a Premier League game received a four-year Football Banning Order at the end of March, but a week before a fan who threw coins and assaulted stewards in an FA Cup game only received a £100 fine.

There’s a lack of consistency on punishment and more banning orders are needed to ensure fans – and safety stewards – do not have to endure this kind of behaviour. They could be your wife, your son, or your brother, and they must be protected while in their place of work.

At Stadium, we also work hard to offer incentives to our staff. That can include training to all of our new recruits, providing them with coach transportation if they are fulfilling a role that is further away from their home, and also providing them with variety of work. We have also just launched our ‘Introduce a Friend’ scheme, offering staff a bonus if they introduce a friend who completes their first three shifts.

As an industry, we can also not get away from the fact pay is also an issue, one that is heightened by the fact some football clubs pay more or less than others.

There are some clubs who cannot financially pay the living wage and only pay the minimum wage, but it can make filling those roles more of a challenge.

If we as an industry were to sign up to the national living wage that would then encourage more people to join, and retain more of those already here.

Without that steward a club cannot open their gates, they are not going to spot the fire in the stands and evacuate the fans, and they cannot put their game on.

For me the steward is ultimately the most important person on match-days and, as an industry, we have got to start recognising this.

— Lorraine Baillie, International Director at Stadium

Another busy year – and plenty to look forward to in 2022

We have ended 2021 just as we began – with another busy period.

Christmas and New Year is one of our busiest times of the year with a packed football fixture list.

Traditionally, Boxing Day is a big footballing day and it’s almost become part of the Christmas festivities, as people rush to sport to get out of the mince pies and turkey from the day before.

This period is always a welcome time for us at Stadium as we look forward to helping football clubs around the country host these events, making sure everybody has a safe and enjoyable time.

Over the course of the year, we have been tremendously busy.

We started the year supporting Covid testing sites up and down the country, committing resource to a new network of lateral flow testing sites.

July and August marked the start of the football season as crowds returned.

In the summer, we were proud to play our part in big events right here in the heart of Coventry such as the Godiva Festival and Coventry Moves – the signature event of UK City of Culture.

Like everything, it felt very much like turning on a tap. We had a huge rush if events and people wanting to experience them.

Our industry was badly affected by a lack of staff returning after 18 months of Covid, although it is an issue which has challenged many different sectors. But things are evolving all the time, as they have again in recent weeks with the new variant.

On December 16, Liverpool’s home tie with Newcastle was our first game which required proof of coronavirus vaccination or a negative lateral flow as part of new Government legislation on crowds of over 10,000 people, so we added additional resource to the team at Anfield to ensure this was achieved quickly, efficiently and safely.

All we can do is follow the guidelines and we are encouraging our staff to get their vaccinations to help keep themselves, and others, safe.

Looking ahead to 2022, we are already planning for a huge year in the UK with further sporting and music events, and we are delighted to be playing our part in Her Majesty’s Jubilee celebrations.

Overseas, we are looking forward to the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, where we will be providing a range of stewarding training in Doha to around 20,000 Qatari people.

This is one of the biggest contracts in our company’s history, which has been borne out of the fantastic reputation that the business has forged for itself over the past 12 years.

It gives us great pride our expertise is being recognised internationally.

The knowledge we are passing on will ensure that thousands of spectators will be able to attend one of the biggest showcases in 2022.

We were recently visited by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, who showed great interest in our work in both Qatar and here in the UK, which is very encouraging.

It is further encouraging that we have won some exciting new contracts for 2022 and we are continuing to recruit and expand, with a drive for around 200 new staff.

This is a fantastic show of confidence in our industry.

To already be winning new business, and taking on more new recruits, expanding our staffing numbers to more than 1,000, means we can start the New Year with real vigour.

— David McAtamney, Owner & Founder of Stadium

Events after the pandemic…

These have been strange times for everyone as we have all had to endure the impacts of Covid on our personal and professional lives.

Hopefully we are now emerging from the other side of the pandemic and certainly life is getting back to somewhere near normal.

For our staff at Stadium, that means we have very much been out on the streets working on a series of events from the MotoGP at Silverstone through to the Godiva Festival in our home city of Coventry – and everything in between.

After everything we have been through, there were bound to be some changes in behaviour. I think we all hoped they would be for the better as we had all appreciated the efforts of the NHS and other key workers and had looked out more for our neighbours and relatives, as well as witnessing the trauma many have been through in losing loved ones.

However, rather sadly, one thing that our staff up and down the country have noticed, as events have returned, is an undeniable rise in levels of anger.

The anger in a section of people attending events is way outside any levels of normality. We have been undertaking work at events for more than a decade and we know what the norms are – but there has been a massive increase in anger.

As we are involved in road closures on event days around venues, we are, of course, used to people being frustrated. No-one likes their day-to-day life being inconvenienced, but our staff are highly trained and experienced in dealing with those situations.

We work to a plan which is approved by police and local authorities and is well publicised in the local area around each venue, so people naturally adapt.

Over the course of a year, if we have one minor incident where one of our staff is hurt, maybe brushed by a slow-moving car, then that is it.

However, during August alone we have had four instances where people have driven deliberately at my staff intending to do harm.

It is a combination of a variety factors – people have got used to there being no events for 18 months, roads have not been closed, they have been effectively locked up at home and have had all sorts of pressures to deal with.

Their mindset appears to have changed, and now we are free to return to some sort of normality, it has had an impact of people’s behaviour and tolerances.

I hope that, as things settle down, so will that level of behaviour. If not, it will mean more hostile vehicle mitigation measures being put in place which in turn means more disruption for people and no-one wants to see that.

I have to keep my staff and event-goers safe – that is the  priority. Many of our staff have been without work as events have been cancelled and they, like everyone else, have had their lives impacted by this dreadful virus.

They are merely doing their job to ensure everyone remains safe and thereby allow events to happen. I would just ask people to show them the same decency, understanding and tolerance as they would anyone else working to ease us back to normality.

— David McAtamney, Owner & Founder of Stadium

Anti-terror measures: proposed law change for all events

Following the government’s announcement of the creation of a new law to force event organisers to put anti-terror measures in place, security expert and Stadium founder David McAtamney says it’s about time for the industry to move forward.

“For many years, event organisers have got away with being able to opt-out of providing robust counter-terrorism measures for their attendees due to it not being enforced in law.

“While there have been strong laws enforcing a high standard of health and safety at public events for a very long time, measures to combat terrorism have largely been left to organisers themselves.

“Even though plenty of events do spend money on measures such as hostile vehicle mitigation barriers (HVM), many do not, usually citing excessive costs.

“Choosing whether or not to put these measures in place can genuinely make the difference between life and death for those who attend these events. Attendees expect to be kept safe by those organising the event.

“So I welcome this announcement from Security Minister James Brokenshire that, at long last, a law will be put in place to ensure event organisers are doing enough to prevent these horrific incidents like we’ve seen recently in Germany, and most infamously at the Manchester Arena.

“These measures can be varied, including the deployment of temporary HVM, giving advanced training to security staff, and forming and executing incident response plans.

“For example, when Stadium helps plan an event, we meticulously assess things like where crowds are most likely to gather before, during and after an event, and where vehicles are most likely to be able to access an event space.

“We then advise organisers on what type of HVM barriers they will need, where to deploy them, and whether the barriers should allow vehicles through.

“I would like to see the law empower licensing committees within local authorities to be able to refuse licences to event organisers who have not demonstrated they are providing measures to prevent terror attacks.

 “I genuinely think that if organisers claim they cannot afford to provide effective counter-terrorism measures, they should not be hosting events at all.

“Although it may make certain organisers have to rethink their business strategy, this law should not reduce the number of large public events being held – the industry is doing extremely well at the moment due to consumers’ appetites for ‘experiences’, so I doubt this will cause event companies to lose money.

“Stadium would be very willing to contribute to the planned consultation around the law in the spring – I think it’s crucial we have our say due to our extensive expertise in the security and anti-terror industry.

“We look forward to working collaboratively with the government and making sure the new law protects people as much as possible.”

To find out more about the upcoming changes read the official government statement announcing their plans for the new law.

Contact Stadium for Event Safety Solutions

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Call us on 024 7518 9999 or send us an email at info@wearestadium.com.

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