With the current threat from international terrorism in the UK remaining at severe – as it has done since August 2014 – and amidst Tuesday night’s bomb attack on the Dortmund team bus ahead of their Champions League clash against Monaco, it is imperative that football clubs in the UK give serious consideration to security.


Here, the British Security Industry Association – the trade body representing the UK’s private security industry – discusses the risks facing football stadiums today and what can be done to help mitigate these risks.


Football stadiums are an attractive target to terrorists as the presence of a large condensed crowd of people in a restricted area provides the potential to cause large-scale casualties.


This has been illustrated through attacks – and attempted attacks – at a number of sporting events since the 1970s, perhaps most notably in recent times at the Stade de France in November 2015. That particular attack killed three people and injured several others when two suicide attacks and a bombing occurred close to the stadium during the friendly match between France and Germany. Had these attacks occurred within the stadium, the death toll could have been significantly higher.


Football stadiums are challenged with protecting themselves from a variety of terrorism-related threats, including Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) – either vehicle-borne or person-borne – as was the case during the Stade de France attack, as well as a wide range of sophisticated threats. Alan Meyrick, Senior Risk Analyst for BSIA member G4S Risk Consulting explains: “As well as IEDs, there is also the potential for the release of powders and other substances – which may be harmless – but may trigger mass panic amongst the crowd. More likely in the UK however, are threats involving Single/Lone Active Shooters, Marauding Terrorist Firearms Attack (MTFA) and low-sophisticated attacks using household weapons and vehicles to cause casualties.


“There are however, a range of products and services available to help mitigate the risk,” explains Alan, “but much will depend on the threats identified during a prior risk assessment or security survey and the cost of the carefully selected measures.”


Measures should be bespoke to the stadium in question and should include a combination of physical, human and technical solutions. Ensuring the measures employed are fit for purpose, commensurate to the risks identified and works symbiotically, are key elements of successful risk mitigation.


Alan, who has worked with a Premier League football team on their security strategy, believes that it is essential that someone takes responsibility for counter-terror security and achieves buy-in from staff across the organisation. “Responsibility could fall under the remit of a health and safety manager, security manager or estates manager, among others,” he said.


“However, there is a risk that individuals that have multiple roles will not fully understand security and the associated risks from terrorism, therefore, it can be beneficial to have someone dedicated to stadium security. It is also essential for staff throughout the club, to buy into the importance of stadium security. This can be achieved through repeated training, refresher events, ensuring staff are clear as to what their role is in the event of an incident and repeated counter-terrorism drills that can be provided by external providers to make the training realistic.


“Matchday staff should also undergo enhanced security awareness training above and beyond that provided for core private security staff. There are multiple forms of training available, although historically, Project Argus and Project Griffin have been the two main forms of police and National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) training regarding the terrorism threat. Although Project Griffin is City of London-centric, other providers, registered with NaCTSO, can also provide the training. It is worth noting, that London-based training is also transferable to locations outside of the Capital and will still be applicable.”


Some of the larger, more high-profile clubs, may deem it necessary to employ a full-time counter terror officer (CTO), a role which Manchester United have recently filled. A CTO would likely carry out continued assessment of the club’s risk profile with ongoing engagement with external agencies including the police and security services, and in particular the counter-terrorism security adviser, SO15 (Counter Terror Command) and NaCTSO. They would also likely head-up some form of fusion centre that collates open and closed-source information that will influence the club’s risk posture and what additional steps need to be taken around security provision.


Of course, maintaining a balance between security and the matchday experience is an important consideration. But it’s a difficult challenge to achieve. Manchester United has recently increased turnstile security in the wake of recent security breaches. However, this has led to an increase in queuing times, which can impact fans’ enjoyment and can pose a health and safety risk.


Alan adds: “There is another critical risk to large crowds queueing to enter the stadium as they present an attractive alternative target for terrorism. As stadiums introduce better, more comprehensive physical security, the threat is further displaced with spectators potentially at risk at the local transport hub, thoroughfares leading to the stadium and nearby pubs, restaurants and bars. Lessons learnt from the London Olympic security operation highlighted a need for cross-agency collaboration to mitigate the risk across the board.


“Clubs, if the space and logistics allow, could introduce several layers of perimeter security before the turnstiles to limit congestion. They may also need to consider opening the stadium for longer before and after matches to more smoothly process supporters, perhaps by using pre and post-match entertainment or other incentives such as lowering the ticket prices for early entry, in an effort to prevent congestion before kick-off.”


Preparing for a terrorist attack is essential and clubs should ensure that they have procedures and policies in place to manage a terror incident should one occur. “At the lower, tactical level, there should be a set of ‘assignment instructions’ or similar, which should include a clear set of ‘incident management’ places that offer specific guidance and instruction to security staff in the event of a terrorism-related incident. This can be as simple as a flow chart instructing staff on what to do – including cordoning off areas, who to contact, site evacuation etc.


“At a strategic level, a Business Continuity Plan should be in place – and be accessible. This will aid senior club management to decide what action to take in the event of an incident regarding match abandonment, total evacuation, phased evacuation, directed evacuation, invacuation and shelter in place – as was the decision during the November 2015 attack in Paris,” says Alan.


Speaking of matchday preparations, Alan adds: “Ahead of matchdays, security teams should attend a briefing to understand the specific risks faced. The briefings should form a core element of procedures before any sweeps or searches are undertaken. Pre-match security is paramount and should ensure the stadium is sterile with search regimes employed, possibly by using specialist security teams and/or canine units. Contractors, catering staff, cleaners, vendors and other stadium staff should also be undertaken. Background security checks, vetting and due diligence also have to become the norm to ensure that all visitors – not just spectators – are cleared.”


If an incident does occur, the club’s Emergency Response Plan should kick in. Often closely linked to the Business Continuity Planning, the Emergency Response Plan should assess the impact of the incident, seek to mitigate further losses, salvage and protect remaining resources and prepare for recovery. Business Continuity Planning and having a robust security plan in place is essential to ensure an incident does not become an ‘emergency’ or ‘disaster’, and one that can be resolved with minimal disruption to operations. Ideally, all communication and decision-making will be made via a central control room where senior club management, including the Counter-Terrorism Officer and a police representative would be present to liaise and coordinate the response.