Effective Security Management of University Sport Venues


The purpose of this study was to identify standards for effective security
management of university sport venues. Standards were developed through
a series of interviews and a three-round Delphi study. Purposeful sampling
was used to select participants for both the interviews and Delphi panel.
Four sport security personnel participated in the interview process and
an initial set of standards were developed and used for the Delphi study.
The twenty-eight member Delphi panel included the athletic facility manager,
campus police chief, local sheriff, and local emergency management director
responsible for game day security operations at seven state-supported
universities in Mississippi. Importance ratings for developed standards
were assessed on a five-point Likert scale during Round 2 and 3. This
study identified 134 standards in eleven categories: Perimeter Control,
Access Control, Credentialing, Physical Protection Systems, Risk Management,
Emergency Management, Recovery Procedures, Communications, Security Personnel,
Training, Modeling, and Simulation, and WMD – Toxic Materials Protection.


“The homeland is secure when the home town is secure”
Former Secretary Tom Ridge, Department of Homeland Security

Large public gatherings, such as sports events that celebrate American
popular culture, are considered to be potential terrorist targets (Hurst,
Zoubek, & Pratsinakis, n.d.). In March 2005, the Department of Homeland
Security (DHS) identified a dozen possible strikes it viewed most devastating,
including a truck bombing of a sports arena (Lipton, 2005). Since 9/11,
the American sports industry has increased security at major sporting
venues and high profile events such as the Super Bowl, World Series, and
Olympics. University sport programs must also take necessary steps to
secure their stadiums and campuses against potential threats. College
sport stadiums provide a perfect target for mass casualties and catastrophic
economic impact.

Assessing risk, reducing vulnerabilities, and increasing the level of
preparedness will help minimize potential threats to university sport
venues nationwide. The major goal of this study was to develop standards
for effective security management of university sport venues and assess
the level of importance for those standards according to individuals responsible
for sport venue security. Identifying standards will assist university
sport security management teams in their quest to provide a safe environment
for sport patrons and will help provide consistency in security practices
among sport venues nationwide. The two primary research questions that
spearheaded this research project were:

1. What standards are needed for effective security management of university
sport venues?
2. What is the perceived level of importance for the security standards?

Review of Literature

Sport is a multibillion dollar industry in the United States and large
sporting events such as the Super Bowl, NASCAR, or collegiate football
bowls provide an attractive stage for terrorists to communicate their
messages of evil and hatred for society. “Al-Qaeda’s Manual
of Afghan Jihad proposed football stadiums as a possible terrorist attack
site, and the FBI issued an alert in July (2002) warning that people with
links to terrorist groups were downloading stadium images” (Estell,
2002, p. 8). Unfortunately, the sporting world has already been victim
to terrorist attacks. At the 1972 Munich Games, a Palestinian group seized
Israeli athletes inside the Olympic village. In 1996, a domestic terrorist
bombed The Centennial Olympic Park at the Atlanta Games, killing one person
and injuring more than one hundred (CNN.com, 1996). University sports
venues are no exception to these terrorist threats. In October, 2005,
an Oklahoma University student killed himself by prematurely detonating
a bomb strapped to his body outside an 84,000 packed stadium (Hagmann,
2005). The intercollegiate game-day environment meets the criteria for
a perfect strike with high consequences. According to NCAA attendance
records, approximately forty-three million people attended collegiate
football games during the 2004 season (Official NCAA Football Records
Book, 2005).

In the aftermath of 9/11, most leagues, teams, and venues conducted threat
assessments and updated security practices (Hurst, Zoubek, & Pratsinakis,
n.d.). The National Football League developed a “best practices
guide” of recommended security measures for NFL teams. The NFL also
made a request to the Federal Aviation Administration to restrict airspace
above all NFL stadiums (Mason, 2001). Collegiate athletic programs in
particular stepped up security on many levels. The Federal Aviation Administration
accepted a request from the University of Michigan to declare a no-fly
zone over the Wolverines stadium for their game against Western Michigan
in September, 2001 (Bagnato, 2001). Michigan also locked down its stadium
several days before game day and used bomb sniffing dogs to sweep the
premises the morning before kick-off. The Penn State Nittany Lions no
longer allowed re-entry to the stadium, and illegally parked cars were
towed. The Mississippi State Bulldogs officially banned backpacks, and
like many other college stadiums in the country, Nebraska’s Memorial
stadium had a greater security presence inside and outside the grounds

However, Pantera et al. (2003) findings indicate there is much room for
improvement in security at college sporting venues. Implications discussed
by Pantera et al., (2003) include the need for effective communication
and scrutinization of game plans in advance of game time and practiced
disaster/emergency responses with support of local, state, and federal
first responders. Furthermore, all game-day staff members must be familiar
with their roles and responsibilities (2003). According to Goss, Jubenville,
& MacBeth (n.d., “Training: our best kept secret”), “To
be ready to preempt or react to terror strikes, venue workers at entry
level must receive timely security training.” Training must be a
continuous element to facility worker’s duties. Outsourcing security
personnel just to present a security presence is no longer adequate. Many
venues have chosen to develop and maintain their own in-house security
response teams that are familiar with the venue (n.d). In today’s
unstable environment, with the threat of terrorist attacks, sport organizations
need to “institutionalize security measures in policy and procedure
guidelines, train personnel on the guidelines and stage exercises to drill
and test incident response plans” (Hurst, Zoubek, & Pratsinakis,
n.d., p. 4).

The NCAA has issued a “best practices” planning options guide
for institutions to review and the International Association of Assembly
Managers (IAAM) has identified key security practices for public venues.
Furthermore, the DHS developed a Target Capabilities List (TCL) which
identifies thirty-six capabilities that the Nation needs in order to address
major incidents. The DHS also created a Universal Task List (UTL) that
describes tasks to be performed to prevent, protect, respond, and recover
from incidents of national significance (Universal Task List, 2004). According
to Hurst, Zoubek, & Pratsinakis (n.d.), regardless of the analysis
conducted after an incident, “the fundamental question will always
be whether or not reasonable steps were taken to protect against an incident
in light of the availability of security measures, the industry “standards’
for security, and the potential threat of terrorism” (p. 5). Standards
are defined by Marshall Thurber (1993) as “a written, or visual
measurable guideline describing expected behavior, performance, product
or service.” A lack of industry standards for university sport venue
security in America may result in varying security policies, procedures,
and guidelines among institutions. After an extensive review of literature,
Homeland Security threat/risk assessment training, and experience working
on sports event security management grant projects, the researcher was
able to identify common categories of security measures to be used in
the research study. These included: Perimeter Control, Access Control,
Credentialing, Physical Protection Systems, Risk Management, Emergency
Management, Recovery Procedures, Communications, Security Personnel, Training,
Modeling, and Simulation, and WMD –Toxic Materials Protection.



Participants in this study were qualified experts in the field of security
and/or sports event
security. Two sets of participants were used for this study – interview
participants and Delphi study participants. The researcher interviewed
six experts (n=6) in the field of sports event security management. These
experts worked in various disciplines and offered unique perspectives
on security management. They included: 1) a FBI agent with extensive experience
in conducting vulnerability assessments of sport venues; 2) a Homeland
Security Officer who oversees the implementation of risk management practices;
3) an Emergency Management Director; 4) a professional sports security
officer; 5) a professional sport management officer, and 6) an NCAA Division
I collegiate athletic administrator responsible for game-day security
planning and operations.

Delphi study participants (n=28) included the athletic facility manager,
local sheriff, campus police chief, and the local county emergency management
director responsible for game-day security at seven public universities
in Mississippi. The sample population reflected NCAA Division I, Division
I AA, and Division II, and four different Athletic Conferences.


Approval to conduct the research was obtained by the Institutional Review
Board. All interviews were delivered via email during the fall of 2005.
A panel of experts reviewed the questionnaire to ensure face validity.
Six security experts were interviewed first to obtain a preliminary set
of standards critical to the effectiveness of university sports event
security management. Interview questionnaires included a definition and
example of a standard. Participants were asked to generate responses to
the question, “What standards, under the following categories, do
you perceive to be important in effectively securing sport venues?”
Security categories were provided by the researcher. The preliminary list
of standards was used for the Delphi study.

A three-round Delphi study was conducted during spring 2006 to gain feedback
on the preliminary list of standards and to reach consensus among sports
event security management professionals. Each Delphi questionnaire was
reviewed by a panel of experts to ensure face validity. Round 1 Delphi
asked the panel to review the preliminary list of standards and add/edit/comment
accordingly. Round 2 Delphi was sent to those who responded to the first
round. Participants were asked to rate the importance of each standard
on a five-point Likert Scale (1 = very low; 2 = moderately low; 3 = average;
4 = moderately high; 5 = very high). Round two results were compiled and
reformulated for Round 3 Delphi. Round 3 Delphi was sent to participants
who responded to round two. Round three again asked participants to rate
the importance of each standard. They were provided descriptive information
on how the group responded in round two and were asked to consider the
group response and then re-rate the items.

Data Analysis

Upon interview completion, standards were consolidated under each category
and as much as possible of the participants’ original wording was
retained. Some standards were suggested by more than one participant,
but were only listed once to avoid duplication. A peer examination enhanced
the researcher’s analysis and provided a “devil’s advocate”
point of view to enhance credibility.

Round 1 Delphi questionnaires were analyzed through summarization and
identification of new standards suggested by the Delphi panel. Round 2
and 3 Delphi results were analyzed using SPSS. Descriptive statistics
(mean, median, and standard deviation) for importance ratings were provided
for each standard. The researcher set an elimination level at three or
below, indicating an average to low importance rating. No standard was
assigned a mean importance score low enough to warrant elimination. “The
equivalent terms for reliability and validity for qualitative data are
credibility, dependability, and confirmability. With the Delphi study,
credibility is directly related to the selection of the panel of experts
who must fit the area of inquiry,” (Doerries & Foster, 2005,
p. 260) as did the selected panel in this study. Athletic facility managers,
local sheriffs, campus police chiefs, and local county emergency management
directors are key players in the planning and preparation of security
operations at intercollegiate sports events. These experts provided valuable
insights into the coordination of security protocol on game day. To further
enhance credibility, transferability, dependability, and ‘confirmability’
of this study, the researcher utilized triangulation, peer debriefing,
and member checks.



Four interview participants (n=4) successfully completed the interview
questionnaire. A total number of 206 standards were suggested from all
four participants. The standards were consolidated under each category
and as much as possible of the participants’ original wording was
retained. Some standards were suggested by more than one participant,
but were only listed once to avoid duplication. A total number of 141
standards under eleven security categories were used for round one of
the Delphi study.

Delphi Study

Twenty-two of the twenty-eight participants successfully completed all
three rounds of the Delphi Study (78.6%). Table 1 highlights the overall
participation rates and main purpose for each Delphi Round.

Table 1: Participation Rates for the Delphi Study

Round Main Purpose # of Experts Asked to Participate # of Complete Returns % Completed
1 Feedback on standards created through interviews 28 26 92.6
2 Rating of importance 26 23 82.1
3 Updating of previous ratings 23 22 78.6

Delphi Round 1 participants were asked to review the list of 141 standards
created by the interview panel. After Delphi Round 1 analysis, 134 standards
were listed in Round 2 and 3 Delphi for assessment of importance ratings.
The following is a summary of results after completion of the third and
final Delphi Round:

Perimeter Control
The panel of experts indicated the importance of locking down the stadium
(M=4.36), police patrolling before and after events (M=4.36), establishing
a secure inner perimeter (M=4.36) and securing vulnerable systems with
locks and seals (M=4.36). Security should also establish a 500-foot outer
perimeter around the stadium (M=4.09). However, the panel clearly felt
that the use of bomb dog teams for inspection (M=3.62) was not as important.

Access Control
The Delphi panel highlighted the prohibition of certain items such as
coolers, large backpacks, weapons, etc. as highly important with a mean
score of 4.76. Several other standards in this category proved to be important
including: publicizing inspections and prohibited items (M=4.73), locating
security personnel at each entry point (M=4.64), locating law enforcement
at each entry point (M=4.45), identification of coaches and players entering
locker rooms and restricted areas (M=4.50), and the right to inspect any
deliveries to event area (M=4.45). Electronic scanning of tickets (M=3.64)
was of least importance to the panel.

The panel indicated that credentials should be worn at all times (M=4.50)
and should be substantially different from those used in prior seasons
(M=4.45). Maintaining a record of persons issued credentials for control
purposes (M=4.36) was also important. All team bench staff, except players
in uniform, should wear a game credential (M=4.36). Requiring background
checks for vendors, employees, contractors, students, and volunteers received
a mean score of 3.91.

Physical Protection Systems
Standards in this category were assigned mean scores ranging from 3.86
(bomb removal equipment on site) to 4.59 (enhanced lighting of gated areas
and digital security system monitored by command center). Establishing
a 100-foot inner perimeter (M=4.41), utilizing barriers (M=4.27), and
having digital camera monitoring capabilities (M=4.27) were highly rated.
The stadium and press box should be equipped with an Integrated Security
Management System (ISMS) consisting of CCTV, access controls, and alarms
(M=4.41). Having portable hazmat smart stripes and detection equipment
on site received one of the lowest mean scores (M=3.91) in this category.

Risk Management
Developing risk management plans for athletic department events and completing
these plans in conjunction with local law enforcement were assigned mean
scores of 4.45 and 4.48 respectively. Weekly game management meetings
addressing risk management issues should be conducted (M=4.25). Risk management
training should also be conducted with all game day staff (M=4.36).

Emergency Management
Standards in this category were assigned means scores ranging from 4.33
to 4.73. Emergency management appears to be a critical area in the security
management of university sport venues, especially the development of an
Emergency Response Plan, Evacuation Plan, Disaster Plan, and an Emergency
Medical Plan. Emergency Response Plans should be coordinated with local,
state, and federal emergency management agencies (M=4.68). A primary and
secondary security command and control center should be established (M=4.55),
and it should have a view of the playing field to facilitate decision-making

Recovery Procedures
Identifying security needs (M=4.67) and having written contracts or mutual
aid agreements in effect with local and out of state emergency responders
(M=4.43) were assigned the highest mean importance ratings by the panel
of experts. Contracts should be in place for immediate restoration and
secondary locations identified to hold event bookings. Identifying insurance
needs received a mean score of 3.90.

Identifying a chain of command (M=4.76), providing a sequence of notification
(M=4.67), having access to hand held radios (M=4.52), and having reliable
communication systems with backups in place (M=4.62) were assigned some
of the highest importance scores. Hand held radios should have a minimum
of ten channels and be independent in case there is a breach of security
(M=4.67). The command center should have direct access to the emergency
communication system (M=4.57) and have reliable communications with the
PA/video staff in order to authorize emergency scripts and messages (M=4.68).
Communications must be checked with all emergency responders prior to
the sporting event (M=4.64).

Security Personnel
The panel of experts believes security personnel should be included in
all training and planning activities to ensure they are aware of their
duties and responsibilities (M=4.64), and the panel believes that security
personnel are provided by licensed and certified providers (M=4.55). All
personnel must have a background check was also highly rated with a mean
score of 4.45.

Training, Modeling, and Simulation
Training should be provided in several areas including: 1) inspection
procedures to security staff, 2) credential recognition to access control
personnel, and 3) security awareness to ushers, vendors, and volunteer
(M=4.59). Conducting evacuation simulations (M=4.14), practicing emergency
drills prior to season (M=4.55), and conducting table top exercises (M=4.41)
were highly important. During training scenarios, planners should test
the chain of command, decision making process, primary/secondary communications
and emergency use of the PA and video systems (M=4.55).

WMD – Toxic Materials Protection
The panel of experts indicated with the highest mean score of 4.59 that
all potentially dangerous chemicals or materials be permanently removed
from the sport stadium. Toxic materials protection and decontamination
should be part of the Emergency Response and Evacuation Plans (M=4.45).
Campus police and safety officers need to be trained to the Weapons of
Mass Destruction/Hazmat awareness level (M=4.32).


The outcome of this study has been a consensus of best security practices
by key personnel responsible for security operations at university sports
events in the state of Mississippi. University sport security personnel
may utilize these standards to prioritize security measures according
to importance, especially those organizations with limited funding and
imminent need to harden their facilities. Standards in the Credentialing
Emergency Management, Risk Management, and Communication and Training,
Modeling, and Simulation categories were assigned some of the highest
mean importance scores. This finding was consistent with highlighted areas
in the review of literature. University sport programs need to ensure
these key areas are addressed sufficiently. The NCAA has issued “planning
options” for athletic department events but do not have standards
in place for institutions to adhere to and be held accountable for. Therefore,
security practices at university sports venues may vary between institutions.
Industry standards need to be established forcing compliance among members
to ensure the sporting public that reasonable measures are in place for

It is extremely critical for security staff to work as a team in the
coordination of security operations during university sports events and
to have in place effective communication systems. Athletic department
staff, hired security staff, and all other game day staff (ushers, vendors,
ticket takers, etc.) must be properly trained and aware of security policies
and practices. Emergency response and evacuation plans must be developed
and updated on a continuous basis. Disaster scenarios/exercises need to
be executed at least once before the sport season begins, involving all
emergency response services ensuring multi-agency collaboration. Sport
venue managers must be qualified in the area of sport event security management
(SESM) and aware of DHS security initiatives. A new market emerges for
educational institutions across the nation to offer curriculum and certification
programs in the SESM area for aspiring sport venue managers and professionals
already in the field.

Future research may focus on determining implications of new security
standards on sport consumers, sport marketers, sport financial officers,
and the potential legality issues for intercollegiate athletic departments
and universities. With increasing pressure to enhance security efforts
at university sports events, there may be some concern about the adverse
affect on the sport consumer’s experience. Sport organizations may
be hesitant to spend extra dollars on security upgrades; therefore, an
economic impact analysis of an incident at a high consequence sports event
would provide data for organizations to consider their return on investment
in security.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to:
Dr. Stacey Hall
The University of Southern Mississippi
School of Human Performance and Recreation
118 College Drive #5142
Hattiesburg, MS 39406
E-mail: Stacey.A.Hall@usm.edu
Work Phone: 601-266-6183
Fax: 601-266-4445


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