Evan Dabby knows soccer. He also knows security. As Senior Director of Operations for Major League Soccer, he oversees security, game and medical operations and team travel for all MLS teams and venues. He is the stadium operations lead for MLS Special Events, such as the All-Star and Cup games.
Here, Dabby shares his love of the sport and the security profession and his thoughts on his leadership skills.
How did your career in security begin? Why did you decide upon this profession?
Like many, 9/11 changed my personal and professional life. I began my career as the MLS Operations Coordinator in 1998, when the League was in its infancy. Without a single soccer-specific venue owned or operated by a club, the League outsourced security entirely. The impressive construction rate of soccer-specific venues (11 over the last 11 years), the recent spike of traveling supporters and the way the world changed after 9/11 provided me the opportunity to lead the League’s effort on safety and security. I am motivated by new challenges, and this certainly has been one of the greatest challenges of my career.
What do you like about your position?
MLS’ growth continues to provide new challenges, and MLS leadership has allowed me to take on new responsibilities. In 2001, MLS was comprised of 10 clubs, and I learned to run game operations as a venue manager for nationally televised events such as our annual All-Star Game. In 2008, at the height of MLS stadium expansion, I led a working group of top professionals to create the MLS Venue Design Guide and MLS Training Site Design Guide to ensure that future venues facilitate the optimal game day experience for players, staff and fans. I enjoy overseeing team travel and sports medicine. Most recently, I’ve been exploring and developing supporter group relations, an area I expect will distinguish MLS from other leagues and entertainment products.
Whom in your organization do you respect and take time to interact with and why?
I have been lucky to work with two remarkable supervisors. I worked with Ivan Gazidis, the MLS Deputy Commissioner, before he accepted a position as the Arsenal FC Chief Executive in 2009. From Ivan, I observed the importance of listening to learn and how to motivate personnel. I currently work with Nelson Rodriguez, MLS Executive Vice President of Competition and Game Operations. Nelson has impressive experience in coaching, broadcasting, human resources, operations, events and more. During each dialogue with him, I challenge myself to learn from his effective problem-solving skills and his ability to look at issues from all conceivable angles to ensure the best outcome.
What qualities do you have that you believe make you a leader?
I consider my leadership approach modest and subtle. While I enjoy the spotlight from a job well done, I always share the credit with those around me, knowing that a successful task or event is rarely a solo effort. Showing proper respect to my colleagues is a priority.
What keeps you up at night?
I worry about what I don’t know. Although I have great confidence in the individuals leading the security effort at our facilities, we cannot know the background of every person attending our games. Whether is it a patron who doesn’t understand our fan culture or an individual who intends to harm others, we necessarily lack knowledge about the fans coming through our gates. Accordingly, MLS is working to promote DHS’ brilliant “See Something Say Something” campaign at all games. Keeping events safe requires a constant process of evaluation, assessment, adjustment, training and vigilance by all participants…a total team effort.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
My wife and I are lucky to have a two year old boy who finds a new way to entertain us every day. We spend our spare time chasing him, trying to match his energy and fulfilling his curiosity with the world. When I can, I also love playing basketball and football with friends. After playing competitive soccer for more than 10 years, the smaller courts and fields suit me just fine.