Making HVM affordable, appropriate and proportionate for sports clubs and stadiums

Crowdguard works with a number of football clubs and stadiums, providing our turnkey Plan, Provide, Protect service to implement appropriate and proportionate counter terrorism strategies  for a wide range of requirements, including Zone Ex protection, fan zones and non-match events.

We are members of the @Football Safety Officers Association (FSOA) and have worked closely with the organisation and their Director of Operations, @Peter Houghton, to ensure we understand the challenges football clubs and stadiums face in keeping people safer amidst a constantly evolving terror threat as we await the proposed Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill (Martyn’s Law).

Our Founder and Director, @Deborah Ainscough, sat down with Peter to find out more about the challenges faced by sports clubs and stadiums and Peter asked her how Crowdguard can help.

Deborah: We know that football clubs and stadiums are used to doing risk assessments and mitigating risk, so what difference will Martyn’s Law actually make for FSOA members?

Peter: You’re absolutely right, football clubs and those responsible for safety and security at stadiums carry out risk assessments on a regular basis. They are used to identifying threats and vulnerabilities and taking steps to mitigate risk, which includes measures to protect against vehicle attacks and incursions. However, not only is the nature of the terror threat constantly evolving, but the mandatory requirements of the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill mean that clubs and stadiums will now have to evidence how they have implemented practicable measures to mitigate risk.

Deborah: So what are your members’ main concerns about Martyn’s Law and their new obligations once the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill has been passed?

Peter: The biggest concern being raised is how much the additional obligations might cost. For smaller clubs with lower incomes and cash reserves, funding additional security measures is clearly going to be a difficult balancing act. But even for larger, cash-rich clubs, security budgets are finite and allocated in advance. The mooted solution of adding a supplement to ticket prices to fund additional HVM and security measures seems simple in theory, but, in practice, that additional revenue would not necessarily be ringfenced for security and counter terrorism, certainly in the short term, because those budgets have already been set. Moreover, during the cost of living crisis, when all operational costs are rising and fans are finding it more difficult to afford tickets, travel to matches and refreshments at the ground, it’s a tricky time to begin increasing prices.

It’s a real balancing act because, obviously, safety, security and protection from terror attacks are huge priorities for sports clubs and football safety officers, but we also have to ensure that matches are accessible and enjoyable for all.

Peter: The financial concerns are especially acute for smaller clubs, because of their more limited security budgets and lower incomes, so how can you help them balance budget and risk?

Deborah: We completely understand the pressures on smaller clubs as they consider how to put physical security measures in place to comply with Martyn’s Law and protect people from the risk of malicious or accidental vehicle incursions. Our approach is to leverage our experience in risk assessment, HVM specification and skilled installation to advise on proportionality so that we can help football clubs balance budget and risk.  The threat for a lower league club is often different to larger stadiums because fixtures are less high profile and attract a smaller crowd. We work with football clubs clubs to help them understand what options are available to them so that they can select a solution that answers the requirements of the risk assessment while working within the confines of any operational or financial constraints. Procuring HVM is a commercial decision as well as a duty of care, and our approach is to provide options that mitigate risk to the level the football club is willing to accept while leveraging maximum protection from their available budget. We always explain any residual risk gap for each option so that clubs and stadiums can make informed choices.

Deborah: How do you think specialist HVM service providers such as Crowdguard can help football safety officers and stadiums to achieve that balancing act?

Peter: It’s clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to counter terrorism protection and security for stadiums and, despite the experience and knowledge of FSOA members, football safety officers are looking to companies like Crowdguard to help them implement counter terrorism and security strategies that are compliant with the proposed legislation, affordable and practical. Our members know where their grounds are most vulnerable, and they also know the operational and financial constraints on security. What they need from companies like Crowdguard is a tailored approach to considering risk, operational needs and budget, with impartial advice on the most appropriate equipment, where required, to protect people and assets without breaking the bank.

Peter: Is it really necessary for football clubs and stadiums to work with specialists like Crowdguard, rather than building HVM into their security, FM or traffic management contracts?

Deborah: Protecting people and assets should be a collaborative process with each stakeholder playing their part in mitigating risk and ensuring match days are operationally efficient and delivered within budget. There needs to be a joined up approach to security, traffic management and HVM, to maximise the value of each element of the security and counter terrorism plan.

As a certified HVM provider and installer, we ensure our customers appreciate how important it is that any HVM solution forms part of a wider counter terrorism plan. HVM is not simply about road closures; it’s essential that we understand what we’re protecting against, while having an overview of the stadium’s operational requirements and match day security. In that way, we can specify the most appropriate solution and install is in an as tested configuration to ensure the integrity of the deployment.

Peter: Do you have any tips to help football clubs afford HVM

Deborah: We never want to encourage sports clubs or stadiums to cut corners. We help each club make an informed decision, with the ability to choose from various solutions, including permanent, semi-permanent, and temporary HVM for each assessed location, providing options that take account of budget and operational needs. We believe it is ok to accept a level of risk, but football clubs do need to understand what it is they are accepting and why. At Crowdguard we talk clubs through that process, for example, we are currently working with a non-league club who have who have opted for semi-permanent @Unafor #Core #HVM, rather than hiring temporary kit for every  match day. This has a higher one-off cost, but will give them a cost-effective long-term solution which is both proportionate and flexible enough to be deployed on an as needed basis.

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