An Examination of British Sport Security Strategies, Legislation, and Risk Management Practices

By Hall, Stacey A. | The Sport Journal, Spring 2010 | Go to article overview

An Examination of British Sport Security Strategies, Legislation, and Risk Management Practices


Hall, Stacey A., The Sport Journal


Introduction

Britain faces similar sport safety and security issues to the United States such as terrorism (Steinbach, 2006) and crowd management problems (Pearson, 2006). An analysis of the English football (soccer) security system will highlight strategies, legislation, and risk management practices effectively utilized to curb illegal behavior at events. Lessons learned from the British system may help U.S. sport leagues deter terrorism and unruly fan behavior. Sports organizations should plan to deter potential incidents because of legal obligations, business continuity, and loss of reputation (National Counter Terrorism Security Office, 2006).

Hooligan activities have posed a major challenge for the British government in the past 25 to 30 years. Hooliganism involves disorderly fans and criminal activity that occurs before and after games, in or around stadiums, resulting in casualties or fatalities (Pearson, 2006). There are two different types of hooliganism: spontaneous and organized. Spontaneous hooliganism is a low level disorder in or around stadiums and is not as violent as organized hooliganism. Organized hooliganism is the more serious form of where violence is the norm and people get injured or killed (Pearson, 2006). These acts are sometimes pre-arranged by gangs who meet to fight other gangs before a football match. Hooliganism has been known as the "English Disease" because of its origination in Britain, but it is prevalent elsewhere in Europe (Pearson, 2006).

The 1980's was known as the "Decade of Disaster" in England when two separate stadium crushing incidents resulted in over 200 injuries and 100 deaths ("Heysel Disaster", 2000; "football fans crushed at Hillsborough", 1989). The Heysel disaster occurred on May 29, 1985, in Brussels Belgium during a European Cup final between Liverpool and Juventus that drew over 60,000 fans. A stampede ensued before the game and police forces failed to stop the rush of fans and maintain order resulting in 39 people dead and many more injured. This tragic event led to the five year ban of any English club to exist in European football competitions. Inadequate seating arrangement at the Heysel stadium was the main cause for this disaster ("Heysel Disaster", 2000).

The Hillsborough disaster occurred on April 15, 1989 and is known as the worst sporting disaster in British history ("Football fans crushed at Hillsborough", 1989). During a match between Nottingham Forest and Liverpool over 2,000 people tried to cram into a section that already had 1,500 spectators. As thousands of people rushed into the stadium, the spectators in front were pinned against the fence that guarded the fans from the field and players. More than 200 people were injured and 93 died (1989). Hooliganism declined in the 1990's due to the passing of the Taylor Report (1990), which forced all stadiums in England and Scotland to implement all-seated stadiums. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also threatened to ban the sport of football because of hooligan acts (Pearson, 2006).

Besides the threat of hooliganism, British football stadium managers face the risk of terrorist attacks. After the Madrid train bombings in 2004, terrorism expert Police Chief Constable Barbara Wilding warned of an attack on the high profile Millennium Stadium in Britain because of its international exposure (BBC, 2004). This was the first warning issued of an attack that could occur at a high profile sport stadium in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, a thwarted terrorist attack during a soccer match between Liverpool and Manchester United in April of 2004 was reported. According to intelligence gathered by British authorities, suspected Islamic terrorists purchased tickets in many different areas of the stadium (Steinbach, 2006). Officials were able to prevent the attack by making 10 arrests the morning the match was originally scheduled to be played. The match between the two teams was played nearly a week later in front of 67,000 fans and an international audience (Steinbach, 2006). …

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