Providing security for sports venues across the country isn't just fun and games. At the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4), security executives are debating the balance between security and entertainment in American athletics.
In a premier panel from this year's conference in New Orleans, experts from across the industry came together to discuss spectator violence.
The panel, hosted by the National Center for the Study of Sports Safety and Security's Institute for the Study of Sports Incidents, included the following speakers and moderators: Gabe Feldman, Professor, Director, Tulane Sports Law Program; Alana Penza, Institute for the Study of Sports Incidents; Dr. Ari Novick, AJ Novick Group, Inc.; Nelson Rodriguez, Executive VP, Competition, Major League Soccer; Evan Dabby, Senior Director of Operations, Major League Soccer; Jason Maloni, Senior VP, Levick Strategic Communications; Jeff Miller, VP/Chief of Security, National Football League; Jim Mercurio, VP of Stadium Operations and Security, San Francisco 49ers; and Paul Denton, Police Chief, The Ohio State University.
The panel also served as a discussion forum, with multiple questions from attendees.
The main aim of the panel was to compile a list of common spectator violence problems faced by stadium and sport venue security today, as well as to share best practices on how to mitigate these risks and solve specific issues.
Some of the problems discussed include:
• Abuse of alcohol privileges: According to Jeff Miller, VP/Chief of Security for the NFL, there are two different events within event security – the tailgating period and the actual game. “You have to win at the first event,” he says, “if you want to create a safe experience.” Within tailgating, abuse of alcohol by a small percent of spectators can trickle down into bigger problems within the stadium. Too many overly intoxicated visitors can overwhelm screeners and resources within the event, lengthening reaction time to serious problems;
• Field advantage/disadvantage: i.e. harassment of visiting teams’ fans and overstated rivalries;
• Small acts of crime: Scarf theft in soccer often “provokes itself” to create larger problems, says Nelson Rodriguez of the MLS;
• Social media instigation: Incitement over social media by fans and players, plus a preference to upload video of fights to YouTube instead of reporting the incident;
• Rising cost leading to entitlement: With the cost of one $200 ticket, some fans come to venues with higher expectations and lower patience for delays and screening time;
• Group mentality: When part of a 200,000 crowd, some fans feel untouchable – like they can’t be caught and punished while part of the group;
Between the panel member and attendees, various solutions were offered:
• Loss of anonymity: Singling out disruptive fans and publicly ejecting them from the venue;
• Away-game stewards: Bringing in-house security officers (or stewards) to away games helps to lend an air of familiarity for their team’s visiting fans, and the stewards remember trouble-making spectators from home games;
• Sharing responsibility: Multiple panelists declared that security is not a single-department operation, and that employees everywhere from ticket booths to concession stands should be trained to help keep security informed;
• Publicized security plans: Jim Mercurio, VP of Stadium Operations and Security for the San Francisco 49ers, recommended specific publicity of different security efforts, such as undercover police officers dressed as the opposing team’s fans. “We had no problems – fans thought everybody wearing a Giants jersey was a police officer,” he says;
• Changing fan behavior with training: Read more about changing spectator behavior in Security’s July edition’s Security Talk.
Are you facing any of these issues? What solutions have you found? Join the discussion! Leave a comment below and start a dialog on our site.