Creating a compelling active supporter fan experience is vital to producing a world-class sporting event. Designing a safe, enjoyable and high quality active supporter-orientated event ensures the success of the match, team, club and governing body. This helps generate positive press coverage and builds goodwill among fans, which has beneficial long-term financial and reputational consequences for the clubs and the governing body. Leaving fans with positive memories of their time at the sporting match will increase the likelihood that they will return again and with this creating a long lasting economic benefit to the clubs, the governing body and the local community.
A safe, effective and non-confrontational approach to crowd management also helps develop a sense of responsibilities among fans and group active supporters, improving their behaviour and decreasing the chance of trouble developing. As I travel and review football security operations on a global level I have seen first-hand how this basic strategy has been extremely successful and has left fans and active supporter group with a positive impression of police, security and event organisers.
Providing a good ‘customer service’ to fans should be a priority, with safety and security playing a role but not being the role…the match should always be a sporting event and not a security event. Good safety and security planning should be optimized through strategic ‘fan first’ planning and active supporter management, which can dramatically improve the ‘fan’ experience and the reputation of the event and sport. Some of the elements that should be considered are:
- Detailed advance planning and management of the fan experience
- Clear communication with supporters about safety and security procedures, transportation, fan zones, activations and stadium conditions of entry
- A safe, secure and welcoming strategy, integrating security planning with that of safety and security in a multi-agency approach with dynamic risk assessment
- Effective pre-event intelligence gathering should ensure that those who threaten security or the safety and comfort of others that are attending the event can be excluded.
- Responsible active supporter groups should be empowered by ensuring effective communication with clubs and organising bodies
- The safety and comfort of all spectators should be paramount, with stadium facilities fit for purpose and professional managed.
Empowering fans and excluding trouble makers should be approached as complementary strategies to help ensure good behaviour. The majority of law-abiding, responsible spectators should not be penalised for the sins of the minority. Engagement with active supporters representatives is recommended prior to and during the match. This will assist all involved in the planning understanding the needs and desires for each group/stakeholder, as well as communicating the reasoning for particular safety and security decisions. If active supporters/fans understand why certain procedures and policies are in place, they are more likely to understand and co-operate. An empowerment-exclusion policy should thus consist of three parts and could include:
Education/communication with supporters/fans
- An approved active supporter charter in place
- Football Supporter Federation
- Communication and engagement plan with clubs, governing body and stakeholders (partnerships)
- Safety and Security Awareness campaigns
- Discussion of safety and security issues with active supporters representative at supporters forum meetings
- Policy and procedures in place that clearly define the banning and sanctions procedures and the consequences of misbehaviour
- Be aware of all safety and security requirements at Stadiums and consequences if these are breached.
- Appeal to supporters to behave in an acceptable manner
- Appeal to supporter’s collective integrity and mutual responsibilities to behave
- Active supporters to take a pro-active approach in making sure that all that attend matches do so in a safe and secure manner
- Clubs have the responsibility to take appropriate measures in managing spectator behaviour and be pro active in the education
- Promotion of zero tolerance to criminal and anti social behaviour at matches
- Sanctions and banning should be consistently applied and be relevant to the alleged offence committed
- Acceptable behaviour agreements are in place
- Clubs to have documented Crowd Management measures in place
- Policy and procedures in place dealing with banning and sanctions including appeal processes
- Signs at stadium entry that clearly identify conditions of entry and code of conduct
- Effective and appropriate security and stewarding
- Clubs to be pro active in enforcing sanctions again spectators that conduct themselves in a disorderly or disruptive manner at matches
- Should be used as the result of persistent bad behaviour
- Should be effectively managed in an open and transparent approach
- Should have an appeal process in place
- Should be a collaborative approach with clubs and governing body
Clubs and/or governing bodies should regularly undertake positive liaison and consultations with supporters groups as there is plenty of evidence to suggest that fans behave better when they feel included. (partnership’s)
Clubs and/or governing bodies should discuss with supporter organisations issues arising out of significant incidents of spectator misconduct in the stadium and encourage the supporters to contribute to the discussions on how to improve spectator behaviour.
The key for the management and involvement of active supporters and to make match day the spectacle that it should be is all about communication, understanding and having all policy, procedures and guidelines in place (governance and frameworks).
ICSS understands that managing the safety and security of active supporter groups/spectators is skill which requires significant knowledge, expertise and experience.