Crowd Management: Past and Contemporary Issues


Before the 2004 summer Olympic Games began, organizers contracted to
Contemporary Services Corporation (CSC), an American company, for crowd
management services. During the opening and closing ceremonies, personnel
helped spectators find their seats, gave general information on the stadium
and its features and helped exit the crowds when the ceremonies and events

Why do crowds need to be managed? The best reasons are the following:
Firstly, big gatherings of people raise the odds of a dangerous occurrence
happening. Secondly, individuals within a crowd always take for granted
that others have the responsibility. Thirdly, big crowds or gatherings
of people make changes in action slower and more complicated. Fourthly,
big crowds or gatherings of people make communications slower and more
complicated. And most importantly, big crowds of people raise the possible
number of victims (Marsden, A. W, 1998).

The definition of crowd management is every component of the game or
event from the design of the stadium or arena to the game itself and the
protection of the patrons from unforeseeable risk of harm from other individuals
or the actual facility itself. The main criteria for deciding if crowd
control procedures are sufficient and proper depend on the type of event,
threats of aggression, existence and sufficiency of the emergency plan,
expectation of crowd size and seating arrangement, known rivalries among
teams and schools, and the use of a security workforce and ushers (Facilities
and Event Management, n.d.). A competent crowd management plan has appropriate
signage, an effectual communication structure, services for various disabled
individuals, a properly trained and capable staff, and procedures and
policies for all possible instances (Facilities and Event Management,

This paper investigates crowd management issues in sports settings and
instances of failures. Crowd management has been an area of concern in
the sports domain ever since the Olympic Games began in Ancient Olympia
around 776 B.C., up until today with the NBA, Soccer games, Football,
games, etc. Facility management has the obligation to protect their patrons
and these managers must also have an effective crowd management plan in
order to protect the character and image of the team and facility. Historically,
managing and assisting crowds has been much more effective than trying
to control them. While this area of sport is often overlooked, it is a
top priority for facility managers and for the sport itself.

The author’s interest in the topic of crowd management grew from witnessing
the aggressive fans of an NBA game during the 2004 season when fans at
Auburn Hills, Michigan fought with several players of the Indiana Pacers.
Every year throughout the world in stadiums, arenas, and other sports
related areas, crowd rushes, fires, bombs, crowd crushes, heat exhaustion,
stage collapsing, overcrowding, and rioting result in thousands of deaths.
Facility managers face many difficulties when managing crowds of 10,000
or 100,000 people.

Some research points out how the individual regresses socially, behaviorally,
and psychologically when he or she is in a large crowd. A civilized person
may emerge into behavior bordering barbarous when in a crowd and some
theories propose that aggressiveness in individuals is an innate characteristic,
which we are born with and this makes aggressive behavior inevitable at
certain times. This is where proper crowd management techniques are involved.
By having a properly trained staff, sufficient signage, an effective and
efficient communication system, an effective ejection policy and a proper
alcohol management policy in place, the risk of aggression, injuries and
death can be reduced. Information on crowd management can be gathered
through various journals, Internet sites, and the EBSCO database.

Review of Literature

Historical Examples of Crowd Management Issues

Crowd management issues can be seen from the days of ancient Greece.
In Ancient Olympia, where the Olympic Games began, women were forbidden
to watch the Games or be in the general vicinity.

Pausanias recounts there is a mountain with high precipitous cliffs,
Typeum, from which any woman caught at the Olympic Games or even on
the other side of the Alpheius would have been cast down. No woman was
caught, except Callipateira, a widow disguised as a trainer. She brought
her son to compete at Olympia (Powell, John. T, 1994, p. 11).

Her son was victorious and Callipateira “jumped over the enclosure
in which trainers had to stay, revealing herself as a woman” (Powell,
John. T, 1994, p. 11). Olympic organizers realized that she was a woman,
however; they let her go without any fines because of the respect everyone
had for her son, her brothers, and her father, all of whom had won before
at the Olympics. “A law was then passed that for future celebrations
all trainers must strip before entering the arena” (Powell, John.
T, 1994, p. 11).

Sports facilities of the ancient world did not have the same problems
of modern days. Callipateira presented a problem for facility managers
of Ancient Olympia. Although keeping women out of Olympic sites may seem
absurd today, in Ancient Greece these Olympic sites were highly sacred
and only men were allowed in these holy areas. Having seen a woman in
an Olympic arena would have upset the large crowds in the ancient stadia
and arenas, from spectators to athletes. One problem for Ancient Olympic
facility managers was how to keep women out of Olympic sites. The solution
was to have a law passed that future Games must have all trainers strip
prior to entering the arena to verify their gender.

The Olympic Games lasted from 776 B.C. till the 4th century A.D. They
did not begin again until 1896 A.D. as organized sport was not as important
during the middle ages in Europe. Today’s facility managers must
also provide proactive solutions for different contemporary problems such
as refusing entry to drunk patrons, checking patrons for weapons and other
modern day problems.