Stadium and security strategy summits - past lessons for future progress

UEFA and its member associations have reinforced their joint commitment to ensuring that everyone at football matches can enjoy the occasion in a safe, secure and welcoming football environment.

Stade de Lyon - the venue for this season's UEFA Europa League final
Stade de Lyon - the venue for this season's UEFA Europa League final ©Getty Images

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

A powerful statement that sums up UEFA’s determination to remain constantly proactive in addressing the issue of safety and security at football matches, and one that formed the basis of five recent UEFA Stadium and Security Strategy Summits.

Enjoying football in safety
Enjoying football in safety©Getty Images

The summits in Nyon and Munich brought small groups of European national associations together with UEFA, security experts, police and government representatives to analyse the past and look towards tomorrow in the drive to ensure that football can always be watched in a safe, secure and welcoming environment. 

The five strategy meetings served to remind those present of the lessons of the past, debate current incidents and identify emerging trends, while reflecting on the risks and liabilities that arise in this crucial area of the game.

Regrettably, football is no stranger to tragedy. Overcrowding, fires, pyrotechnics, violence and, more recently, terrorist threats, have been an unfortunate reality during the game’s history, with lives lost or damaged on various occasions.

Associations were urged at the summits to acknowledge this historic pattern. It was agreed that it is essential not only to share knowledge and experience in the present, but also to do the same in the future.

UEFA Stadium and Security Committee chairman Michael van Praag
UEFA Stadium and Security Committee chairman Michael van Praag©Sportsfile

“The summits are a pre-requisite for progress,” said UEFA’s Stadium and Security Committee chairman Michael van Praag. “Working together is not a new concept, but the human tendency is to work with what we know – and so in uniting the national associations, police and government representatives, we break the silos and create a stronger appreciation of tasks, problems, solutions, leadership and responsibility.” 

The meetings have given important momentum to UEFA’s stadium and security strategy, launched last year and continuing until 2021. The strategy, to which UEFA has given significant funding, has at its core the delivery of integrated and balanced safety, security and service for the vast majority of fans. 

The key factor, the summits heard, is to identify the small minority of people whose sole mission was to fight, hurt and cause chaos and disorder through the platform of football, and to find appropriate measures to counter the problem.

UEFA emphasises the necessity for a Europe-wide, multi-agency approach to safety and security that should encompass governments, local authorities, police, security forces, football authorities, supporters and local communities.

The UEFA summits came to the conclusion that safety and security measures that a municipality, local police force, football club or national football association joined forces to put in place are fundamental to producing a safe environment.

A safety and security summit in Nyon
A safety and security summit in Nyon©UEFA

Within its four-year strategy, UEFA is working hand in hand with its 55 member associations to help them develop effective safety and security strategies and activities in their own countries, and is also co-operating closely with the EU and Council of Europe - the latter has a convention listing good practices on exactly how to exclude the troublesome minority through proportionate and targeted exclusion methods. 

Key measures in the campaign to make football matches a safe environment include the coordinated application of best practice and policies to deal with the wide range of safety and security issues, efficient exchange of information between all stakeholders – including supporters – intelligence-led policing and greater interaction between police and match visitors, and the proper training of stewards. UEFA also recommends that national strategies be led at government level, which means that the authority sits at political level.

“It isn’t about the numbers of police, it is about the atmosphere they generate,” said David Bohannan, Chairman of the Pan-European Think Tank of Football Safety and Security.

“In order to be most effective, the police should be interactive with the crowd – out in the street and engaging with the people.”

Stewards at a UEFA EURO 2016 match
Stewards at a UEFA EURO 2016 match©UEFA

Stewards are responsible for crowd management, so must be properly trained – they should know their area of the stadium inside-out, how to quickly alert their superiors of a potential problem and be aware of any crisis management plan or evacuation procedure. 

“Training the stewards is essential, because knowledge and confidence in the stadium are indispensable,” explained Marc Timmer, UEFA’s safety and security policy advisor.

UEFA used the summits to assure stakeholders of its unfailing commitment to enhancing the overall fan experience and safety of the game – and called upon all of its stadium and security partners never to bow to complacency in a campaign that must be won.