Spectator Perceptions of Security Management at a NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) Event

Article excerpt

Spectator Perceptions of Security Management at a NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) Event

High-profile sporting events in the United States have been identified by the federal Department of Homeland Security as potential terrorist targets (Office of Homeland Security, 2002, p. 86). According to Goss, Jubenville, and MacBeth (n.d.), an act of sports-related terrorism is inevitable, a matter of when and where, not if--and of how the act will change the sporting world forever. Philpott (2007) explained that effective security management is imperative at large sporting events with many spectators, because there is potential for mass casualties as well as for catastrophic social and economic impacts.

Noted sports-related terrorism in the past includes incidents at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, and at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, as well as several other recent events in the United States. In October 2005, an Oklahoma University student prematurely detonated a bomb strapped to his body outside an 85,000-seat stadium filled to capacity (Hagmann, 2005). In October 2006, the National Football League received a radiological bomb threat against several of its stadiums (Homeland Security: NFL Stadiums Threat Not Credible, 2006). The terrorist group Al-Qaeda prepared a "manual of Afghan jihad" in which football stadiums are proposed as sites of possible attacks, and in July 2002 the FBI warned that terrorist groups were downloading stadium images" (Estell, 2002, p. 8).

The present study intended to investigate the security-related perceptions of spectators at a high-profile NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) event conducted in the southeastern region of the United States. Knowledge was sought of whether fans are concerned about security at sporting events they attend, whether and how strongly they believe their safety is adequately assured by security measures and personnel, and whether they believe sporting events are a likely target for future attacks.


The University of Southern Mississippi Center for Spectator Sports Security Management was established in 2005 through a Department of Homeland Security grant. The center is the first of its kind in the United States. Through research, education, and outreach efforts, it works to build the capabilities of those responsible for managing security practices at sporting events. The center promotes, supports, and enhances academic research, technology development, and education and training in the domain of sports event security management. Its mission is to provide an interdisciplinary environment for building security awareness, improving sportsrelated security policies and procedures, and enhancing emergency response, evacuation, and recovery operations that follow acts of terrorism or natural disasters (Center for Spectator Sports Security Management, n.d.).

The Center for Spectator Sports Security Management was approached by the NASCAR organization to conduct research on NASCAR's security management systems at one racing venue. Faculty, staff, and graduate students affiliated with the center collaborated with Turnkey Sports and Entertainment, LLC, to complete the proposed project. Turnkey Sports and Entertainment is a sports marketing firm that helps its clients develop insights into their audiences and marketplaces, gathering demographic information, collecting sales leads, and measuring sponsorships with custom market tools (Turnkey Sports and Entertainment, n.d.). Clients of Turnkey Sports and Entertainment include more than 80 leagues, properties, agencies, and brands (Turnkey Clients and Partners, n.d.).



The population for this study was limited to spectators at a NASCAR event in the southeastern region of the United States (N = 1,642). Potential participants were approached inside and outside the racing venue by members of a team of 11 graduate students and 5 faculty members from the Center for Spectator Sports Security Management. …


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