Britain faces similar sport security issues to the United States such as terrorism and crowd management problems. In particular, hooligan activities have posed a significant challenge for the British government in the past 25 to 30 years. Major soccer tragedies, such as the Hillsborough disaster, prompted the British government to enact safety and security standards and legislation. Safety and security measures were also implemented to combat terrorist activities and curb illegal behavior at sporting events. This article will examine specific security strategies and risk mitigation measures employed by the English Football (soccer) League pertaining to stadium design, technology, risk management, hospitality, and industry best practices. Lessons learned from the British system may assist U.S. sport leagues in their security efforts.


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). In 2007, a senior Liverpool police officer claimed that Liverpool Football Club’s new proposed iconic stadium at Stanley Park could be a significant target for a terrorist attack. Chief Constable Simon Byrne insisted that planners design the stadium to minimize openness to attack, specifically suicide bombers. The planning committee is to impose design standards set forth by the Association of Chief of Police Officers (ACPO). These standards set parameters for construction and design of the ground to reduce the likelihood and impact of an attack. The planning scheme already includes a high level Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) system, fully equipped control room, and its own on-site mini-prison (or custody suite) (Neild, 2007).

Proactive British Principles

Regulatory and Administrative Changes

The British government enacted legislation and security measures to combat hooliganism, crowd control, and terrorism incidents. The Football Disorder Act (1989); Football Spectators Act (1989); Football Offenses Act (1991); Football Act (1999); Football Disorder Act (2000); and Football Disorder Bill (2001) was enacted by government. These pieces of legislation prohibited hooliganism, categorized the different offenses that a person would be charged with, covered both domestic and international terrorist threats to sport stadiums, and assured that individuals who were banned would be prevented from attending matches inside and outside of Britain. Additionally, the Football Intelligence Unit was created to collect and disseminate information and intelligence about domestic and international issues that occur at or near sport stadiums (Football, 2007). Most significant, under new safety legislation each football club is required to hold a stadium ‘Safety Certificate’. The government produced and published a set of safety requirements in the ‘Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds’ for every club playing in the top four divisions in England. The local government authority (municipality) is responsible for issuing the safety certificate and ensuring the stadium complies with the requirements issued in the safety guide. In addition, each football club is designated a Safety Officer to assist facility management with safety strategies on match day. Safety officers are responsible for the recruitment and training of all stewards (Stadia Safety and Security, 2005).

Overview of Legislation and Regulatory Administration
Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act 1987 Football Act 1999
Safety at Sports Ground Act 1975 Football Disorder Act 2000
Football Disorder Act 1989 Football Disorder Bill 2001
Football Spectators Act 1989 Football Licensing Authority
Football Offenses Act 1991 Football Intelligence Unit

English Football Safety and Security Measures

Stadium Design

New design methods controlled stadium accessibility by restricting the size of grounds surrounding the stadium to provide limited space for loitering and less space to patrol for event management staff. This measure also limited vehicle access to the stadium as parking was limited to players, staff, and officials. Another important design element removed bleacher seating to all-seated stadiums; this in turn led to better control and organization of ticket sales for fan placement. Stadiums have homogeneous fan sections and empty buffer zones to segregate fans (Goss, Jubenville, & MacBeth, 2003). The British Association of Chief of Police Officers (ACPO) developed stadium design standards to set parameters for construction and design of the ground to reduce crowd management issues and the likelihood of a terrorist attack (Neild, 2007).


Command and control centers are located inside stadiums allowing police to monitor areas inside and outside the stadium. This control room possesses fire alarm and voice activation systems, turnstile monitoring capabilities, access to public address system, a door access control system for restricted areas, and a fully integrated Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) system. Additionally, a mobile command center is also established at football sites. What is known as the “Hoolivan”, this vehicle is equipped with CCTV for surveillance operations and maintains radio contact with officers inside and outside the stadium. Technological security measures, such as CCTV, Photophone, and FaceTrac are used to identify fans, run database searches, and send images to security personnel on the ground (“Tackling Football Violence”, n.d.).

Risk Management

British football stadium authorities conducted extensive risk assessments to determine specific risks, threats and vulnerabilities of respective venues. Categories of risk include strategic risks, operational risks, and financial risks. Strategic risks include planning failures, operational risks include human and process errors, and financial risks include financial control failures as well as disruptions in the flow of resources (Cotton, Wilde, & Wolohan, 2000). Football authorities also conduct a match assessment by “grading” each event individually, taking into consideration relative intelligence for the event, historical intelligence of the event (i.e. city rivalries, derby’s), capacity of stadium, and expected attendance. This type of assessment allows stadium authorities and local police to adjust security plans accordingly, thereby pre-determining resources, costs, and level of management needed.


Football clubs have marketed themselves to corporate businesses for specialized hospitality experiences to generate additional revenue. The desire by middle-class citizens to emulate the leisure pursuits of the more affluent created a more upscale football customer, thereby limiting the desire and appropriateness for violence (Winter, 2002). Stadiums have also incorporated leisure and entertainment experiences through unique stadium dining options and shopping venues that creates an atmosphere that discourages hooliganism. Furthermore, alcohol consumption can be governed in hospitality suites and club seating areas. Restricting alcohol distribution and encouraging responsible consumption reduces the likelihood of public drunkenness and disorder (Johnson, 1998).

Best Practices

The U. K. National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) issued rules, regulations, and procedures for event security staff at British stadiums and arenas, including a risk management plan guideline. The NaCTSO also provided best practices in the following areas: access control, screening/searches, traffic and parking, CCTV, and managing event staff. Table 1 provides a summary of the best practices under each area (National Counterterrorism Security Office, 2006):

Table 1: National Counter Terrorism Security Office Best Practices

Access Control

  • Employees wear credentials at all times when entering the stadium.
  • Vehicles parked close to the stadium posses a parking pass and are inspected for suspicious materials.
  • Individuals seek permission to gain access to restricted areas of the stadium. These individuals may need an ID card to gain access.
  • Event staff receives awareness training in dealing with suspicious persons entering the stadium.

Screening / Searches

  • Individuals entering the stadium comply with regulations that would include bag checking. Fans are denied entry upon refusal to comply with regulations.
  • Event staff divides spectators into two groups for stadium entry: one with bags and other items, and those who do not. This allows for better traffic flow into the stadium.
  • Event staff normally works in teams of two and conduct fan entry searches together. Depending on the security threat, one staff member performs bag checks and the other can conduct pat downs.

Traffic and Parking

  • Vehicles are requested to park more than 100 feet away from the stadium.
  • If a vehicle needs to be parked close to stadium, permission is granted ahead of time from the head officials of the stadium and the driver is identified to the Stadium Safety Officer.
  • Vehicles parking close to the stadium are searched.

Closed Circuit Television (CCTV)

  • CCTV operators are certified.
  • Stadium entrances and exits are monitored, as well as other critical areas of the stadium.
  • Spectators and employees are monitored for suspicious behavior.
  • Monitor individuals standing in prohibited areas, taking pictures of the stadium without consent, drawing maps, or appearing in large groups outside the stadium during the event.

Managing Event Staff

  • Manager’s train and exercise event staff on emergency and evacuation procedures, including responding to bomb threats and identifying suspicious vehicles and persons.
  • Conduct background checks during staff recruitment: individuals are required to provide their name, date of birth, insurance (SSN) number, and proof that they are permitted to work in the country.
  • Staff members from outside the U.K. provide a passport and a Home Office document that permits them to work in the country.
  • Observe staff members exhibiting strange behavior.
  • Employees wear ID tags on them while working.
  • Contractors or agency staff wears credentials at all times.
  • Stadium Security Officers communicate with local police and the Counter Terrorism Security Advisor (CTSA) assigned to the respective stadium.

Lessons Learned: Application to the United States


U.S. sport programs should consider training stadium ushers and event day staff in crowd control methods and spectator safety. Additionally, the sporting organization should conduct a continuous training and exercising program for event staff and evaluate staff members after each game to identify problems and address issues before the next event. Event staff members working stadium security should be certified and backgrounds checks conducted to prevent unwanted personnel gaining access to the venue. Furthermore, staff members should have permission to work within the United States.

Crowd Management

Sport programs experiencing illegal fan behavior or reoccurring crowd control issues may consider utilizing fan placement and ticketing strategies to divide opposing fans. Sport event managers may also utilize ticket taking and screening strategies by dividing fans into groups before they enter the stadium by establishing two entry lines – one group consisting of fans with tickets only, while the other group consists of fans with bags or other items that may need to be searched dependent upon the facility’s prohibited items policy. Management may also consider adopting Britain’s Football Officers Staff program, in which the sport leagues employ staff members to patrol not only the perimeter of the stadium, but also at any train, subway, and rapid transit stations, where fans meet to go to a game. Alcohol management is also critical. Alcohol consumption should be restricted to curb public disorder. Further, the sport organization may wish to ban any person who is arrested or ejected from a stadium and any person receiving a banning order could be prevented from attending games at home or away for a designated period of time, i.e. three years.

Security Management

Major sport stadia should have established a command and control center inside the stadium with surveillance capabilities, such as CCTV, and technological advanced tools, i.e. FacTrac. Management should designate a stadium security officer at each venue to coordinate security efforts and communicate with local police, fire, medical services, and emergency management. The stadium security officer should also collaborate with the noted agencies to conduct venue and event-specific risk assessments in order to determine threats and vulnerabilities. Conducting game/event assessments by “grading” each event individually will help take into consideration relative intelligence for the event, historical intelligence of the event, capacity of stadium, and expected attendance.

Best Practices/Standards/Legislation

Understandably, it would be very difficult to implement sport-specific safety and security legislation in the U.S. given the nature of the federal and state government systems; however sporting governing leagues should consider implementing safety and security standards and/or operational acceptance guidelines to ensure consistent safety and security practices across all venues. Furthermore, they can develop stadium design standards to set parameters for construction and design of the ground to reduce crowd management issues and the likelihood of a terrorist attack (similar to the Guide for Safety at Sports Grounds – Stadium Safety Certificate).


Due to major sporting disasters and loss of life, British sporting authorities and government implemented necessary safety and security standards and legislation to combat hooligan activities and terrorist threats. The U.S. sport industry should take a proactive approach to sport safety and security before a catastrophic incident occurs. Proven safety and security methods in the English Football League system have been highlighted for consideration. U.S. sport venue owners/operators should focus on mitigating risks and developing the most effective safety and security plans, policies, procedures, and protective measures.


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