Balancing the budget and risk considerations of HVM specification at football clubs

The recent Football Safety Officers Association (FSOA) Autumn Conference provided an ideal opportunity for knowledge sharing, and it was great to see so many clubs from all leagues represented. A highlight for Crowdguard was the panel discussion hosted by our MD, Iain Moran, to explore the theme of balancing budget and risk when considering the threat from terrorism and specifying hostile vehicle mitigation equipment. Iain was joined by safety officers from three clubs we have been working with recently: Phil Jacklin, Head of Operations at EFL Championship League, Hull City, Richard Hinks, Stadium & Facilities Manager at EFL League 2, Stockport County FC, and Dave Lewis, Football Security and Safety Manager at Premier League club, Everton.

The conversation, with football safety officers drawn from clubs with different grounds, crowd capacity and budgets highlighted that counter terrorism and HVM is just as challenging for the top flight of football as it is for the lower leagues, and just as important for smaller clubs as it is for those attracting huge crowds and TV audiences for every match.

Because the three clubs are all existing Crowdguard customers, we began the conversation at the FSOA conference panel discussion knowing already that they are on board with the need for counter terrorism risk assessment and proportionate protection, so we kicked off the conversation by asking not what they’re doing, but why.

The answer from Dave Lewis at Everton was very clear: it’s not about a mandatory duty driven by legislation, but about a duty of care to protect the fans. “We want to do the right thing and act with integrity,” Dave explained, before stressing that the cost per fan is ‘tens of pennies, not pounds’ – 32p per fan per fixture, in fact, for HVM equipment in seven locations, including full installation, management and operation of all equipment by Crowdguard for every fixture.

Dave’s point about cost was then taken up by Richard from Stockport County, who referred to the club’s Unafor HVM protection to protect the fan zone as ‘cheap as chips’. It has cost just 8p per fan per fixture for this season as a one off cost – a low cost that surprised him because he’d assumed an HVM installation would be beyond the club’s means. Meanwhile, Phil Jacklin at Hull City told delegates at the FSOA conference about how Crowdguard had supported him with compiling a business case for HVM, based on the threat vulnerability and risk assessment, vehicle dynamics assessment and clear costings, broken down per fan per fixture. “It really helped to be able to articulate how the equipment addresses the risk and to quantify the value with a cost per fan,” Phil said. It was a point echoed by Dave, who explained that there is buy-in for HVM deployment at board level at Everton, because the club wants to be known for protecting its fans.

For Phil, early adoption of HVM protection is all about being ahead of the curve. The latest addition to the club’s counter terrorism provision – a Unafor Core installation – has been part of a continuous improvement approach to updating the risk assessment and taking on board any recommendations for what the stadium needs now to protect fans.

The theme of continuous improvement was also clear in Richard’s account of how the Unafor Core installation has enhanced the counter terrorism protection at Stockport County, from both a security and an operational perspective. The Unafor system has replaced concrete block to protect the fan zone at Edgeley Park, which is located in the car park. This not only provides rated protection for fans but has also enabled the protection to be set further back, maximising the available space, and providing the flexibility to re-instate normal vehicular access on non-match days.

While the benefits of HVM and the purpose of protecting the fans was clear from the discussion, the topic of balancing budget and risk inevitably led to more comment on the commercial challenges of putting HVM in place. And it was clear that this is not just an issue for smaller and lower league clubs. Dave was very candid: “We have no budget for HVM,” he said, but, fundamentally, he pointed out, the cost of reacting to an incident would be much higher than the cost of preventing one. Interestingly, Dave also highlighted the potential savings that could be achieved from other areas of the security budget by putting proportionate physical security in place, aligned to threat, vulnerability and risk.

The value of HVM was touched upon again by Richard, who told delegates about the branded sleeves Stockport County is using for the Unafor Core posts on match days, with a QR code to drive ticket sales. Potentially, customisation like this can be used for advertising, enabling football clubs to earn back money spent on protecting fans in advertising revenue.

It’s clear that balancing budget and risk is achievable for both larger and lower league clubs. The advice to delegates from Dave at Everton is to check the credentials of your HVM provider, ensuring they have the risk assessment and specification expertise to advise on the right, proportionate solutions using products from the NPSA catalogue, with accredited installation through PSSA membership.

Crowdguard meets all of those criteria and our partnership approach means that we’re able to develop a HVM package around each stadium’s individual requirements. So for Everton, for example – a club moving to a new stadium in the foreseeable future – the best option for now was to rent HVM on a per fixture basis, with full installation and management from Crowdguard. For Stockport County, a Unafor Core system, specified and installed by Crowdguard and deployed by the club on an as needed basis is more appropriate. The bottom line is, HVM is more affordable and less onerous than many football clubs assume, and the first step towards balancing budget and risk is to talk to the Crowdguard team.

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