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The importance of stadium security post Covid-19

The pandemic has impacted every part of the live events and entertainment industry. Whether it’s the fans who have missed out on watching their favourite bands and teams play, or stadium managers that have lost contracts and suffered financial hardship, the consequences of the pandemic have been devastating and disruptive for the entire industry.

However, with fans now slowly being able to return to stadiums and other large venues following the relaxation of some government rules in England, how do processes need to change to ensure staff and visitors are as safe as possible when using these sites? Whilst capacity will likely be reduced throughout entertainment venues at least until July to account for social distancing, is the reduced capacity a potential for the industry to overlook other serious risks to fan safety?

The government has recently discussed the launch of a Protect Duty that is tipped to impact all entertainment venues in the coming months. The counter-terrorism proposal will look at the security and readiness of public venues in the event of terror attacks and will be a key consideration for venues as they continue to welcome back spectators in the coming months.

With this in mind, how can stadium managers prepare for the return to stadiums? How can security be kept high on the agenda and what can be done to minimise the risk of a terror incident in the months and years following the pandemic?

Assess every threat
Whilst risk assessments are a continuous process, it is important to carry one out as new developments are made. With the pandemic requiring social distancing, some sites doing thermal testing and fans needing to wear masks in some spaces, these are all changes that may require a different security response.

Similarly, any pre-existing anti-terror risk assessment could be out of date, and therefore, carrying out a new assessment that considers any changes to the current security landscape is imperative.

This is particularly significant for the introduction of the new Protect Duty legislation that is set to be introduced towards the end of July this year. Whilst the legalities are yet to be outlined, it is anticipated that stadium managers will need updated risk assessments, with clear counter-terrorism action plans set out ahead of the roll-out. Similarly, anyone who might be affected or included by the Protect Duty legislations can also take free ACT (action counters terrorism) training that can help individuals learn to spot the signs of suspicious behaviour and understand what to do in the event of a major incident. Being as prepared as possible for when the duty is introduced will be in organisers’, and visitors’, best interests.

Consider any terror vulnerabilities     
With the pandemic affecting the number of fans allowed in a stadium at any given time, new measures such as external queueing, staggered arrival times and a greater focus on Covid measures, mean that terror threat, whilst still considerable, may be underestimated or overlooked.

Recent years have seen a clear rise in vehicles being used as weapons and according to the University of Maryland’s global terrorism tracker, 152 of the 183 hostile vehicle attacks that have occurred globally since the 1970s have happened since 2010.

With many stadiums now introducing rapid testing, temperature checks and staggered arrivals, there are often long queues that will form outside of the entrance and exit points and spectators can therefore become vulnerable to external threats such as vehicles. This requires a significant security consideration as large numbers of fans could be waiting outside the venue for longer periods than they would have done before the pandemic, and could become an attractive target for vehicle-based terror attacks.

The good news is that carefully planned anti-terror measures, such as new temporary perimeter security solutions to protect those outside a venue, can help, ensuring that fans, staff and players are all as safe as possible, and free to enjoy the sports they love after such a long wait.

Refresh and retrain employees
With stadiums welcoming back visitors to their sites after a long time away, staff may need refresher training sessions in security management. Having training on crowd management as well as being trained in how to look out for security breaches or suspicious behaviour at a site, will always be valuable and security teams will most likely need these to account for the evolving security considerations that are also posed by recent coronavirus measures.

It is also essential that a terrorist threat is never underestimated. With the number of spectators permitted into a venue being expected to be relatively low for the foreseeable future, there is the distinct possibility that the risk of terrorist activity will be dangerously underestimated. Stadium managers should do everything they can to ensure that they are as prepared as possible, should a terror event regrettably occur.

As we emerge from the coronavirus lockdowns and look ahead to returning to life as normal, there is an understandable excitement to return to entertainment venues and stadiums. Fans have long missed out on the excitement of supporting their favourite teams or entertainment acts, but making sure they continued to be protected and are as safe as possible when using the site must be a top priority.

With evolving security legislation and new entry and exit processes being introduced to cater to continued coronavirus measures, stadium managers should now be carrying out new risk assessments, considering evolving security threats and installing measures that are effective in keeping every visitor and staff member as safe as they can be.

Written by Iain Moran, director at ATG Access, the leading innovator of road blockers, bollards and vehicle barriers.

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