UKCMA on reading the crowd

August 9, 2023


SJUK Editor, Becci Knowles talks to UKCMA (UK Crowd Management Association) Secretary Anne Marie Chebib about the organisation’s aims and objectives, before taking a deep dive into the subject of stadiums with Chair, Eric Stuart.

When UKCMA launched in 2001, it was as a networking opportunity for security companies.  “I suppose in a way that hasn’t changed, because we’re still discussing the challenges we face now, but the landscape for – and our understanding of – crowd management certainly has,” says Association Secretary Anne Marie Chebib, adding that the goal is and always has been “to make sure that we are supporting safer crowds.”

The UKCMA still has many of its original members, but it has increased in breadth to include practitioners, trainers and people who sell services to the industry. UKCMA chair Eric Stuart explains “we have come a long way from where we were in 2001 to represent everyone from security stewards to academics, universities, students at those universities, and independent crowd managers like me.”

Qualifications and goals

Widely regarded as the “grandfather of crowd safety management” Dr. Mick Upton had worked in security, close protection, and crowd management since the 1960’s and created a foundation degree in it. UKCMA chair Eric Stuart completed this course, funding it himself and studying for it in his own time. “Our knowledge of crowds over the last 25/30 years, has grown exponentially and we’re still learning new things every day,” he says.

Commenting on his role as Association Chair, the former police officer says, “It was my predecessor Mark Harding who asked me to consider it. One of the things he said was that he wanted it to move away from being perceived as an organisation that represents the security industry and be seen instead as one that represents crowd safety. There was more chance of that, he said, with an independent chair because we wanted to influence government, we want to influence other organisations, we want to influence the police and not be seen to be there to try to make a profit. We want to be seen to be the first port of call that those organisations go to as a one stop shop for anybody you need in the organisation to come and help you understand crowds.

“In that sense, we have achieved what we wanted to. I know I can pick up the phone to the National Lead for events and he will answer me or get back me as soon as he has one, because he knows there’s a problem big enough that I need to have a conversation with him. Likewise, people within the Home Office who are writing Martyn’s Law – we were pre-public consultees for the writing of the protective team before it even became known as multisource.”

Picking up on these points, Anne adds: “As an Association we can’t lose sight of the fact we’ve got to manage industry and government stakeholders. So, there’s a balance to be sought there between what the aims of the association are and who we are there to represent, which essentially is our members.”

UKCMA Vision

The UKCMA achieves its vision by supporting its members to connect with key industry decision makers in the areas that affect policy and practice in crowd management; by connecting quality suppliers to event buyers; by improving standards across the industry in the areas of training, code of conduct, code of practice and industry representation on matters that make a difference to its members and their businesses.

The aims and objectives of the UKCMA are:

  • To promote the UKCMA Code of Practice.
  • To improve standards across the UK crowd management industry.
  • To be the recognised voice of authority in matters relating to crowd management in the UK.
  • To represent the interests of the industry (advice and consultation) to Government bodies, stakeholders and other relevant organisations- UK and International.
  • To provide a forum for the exchange of non-competitive information and support between members, subject to full compliance with all applicable UK laws.

The UKCMA says: “The industry will always face challenges, and the landscape within which it operates will continually evolve. Member organisations will diversify; the nature of the work they deliver and clients they serve will be subject to change.

“The aims and objectives of the UKCMA, however, remain the same, as the Association represents its members and the industry, regardless of the work they undertake.”

What about stadiums?

Stadiums come with their own unique set of challenges, says Eric. And within that, there are further challenges depending on the use case. “Stadiums are very different from venues that we build on greenfield sites, which we can design to purpose and build it as we want”.

Changing a stadium’s format can be challenging, particularly for home fans. “They travel there every other week, sometimes more and they know everything there is to know about the stadium, the ways in and the ways out. So, if you’re trying to influence them to do something different, for example, if you have a particularly challenging game, or a different game and you want to change the layout you upset their routine. And it’s quite hard sometimes to break them from that. So that is one of the big challenges when they’re being used in their own context and for their own sport.”

An even bigger challenge is if a stadium is being used in a different context, a music event for example. “If you take a football venue, and you want to put a music concert in there as we do every summer, you’ve got to accept that your whole world is changing. The stadium inside is going to be totally different. There’s a quarter of the ground potentially that you won’t be able to use for the public because you’re going to build a big stage and have lots of tech and transmission units and all sorts of things behind the screen and stage so that the public doesn’t have access to it. That is going to totally change your evacuation routes and the way people fill the venue.”

On top of that, says Eric, “you’re going to use the pitch. You’re probably going to cover it, but you’re still going to allow people onto it. This wouldn’t be allowed if it were a football game – it would be called a pitch invasion!” So that’s another significant change to the design which must be adapted and amended.”

When you change the use of a venue is the crowd is going to be different, says Eric. “It’s very different if Tottenham is playing Arsenal at Tottenham with football fans. If you turn it into an Adele concert you’ve got totally different people and it’s important to understand that they’re not going to behave in the same way as football fans. They’re not going to drink in the same way. They’re not going to understand the venue. It’s completely new to them. While a handful might have been there before, most won’t have. So, everything needs to be enhanced in terms of information and signage. Also, your security and staff are used to dealing with a particular group of people and now they’re dealing with complete strangers, they must adapt and that’s one of the main reasons why.”

The Green Guide and the Purple Guide

For sporting venues, we have the Green Guide, which is written by the sportsground Safety Authority. For outdoor events, music concerts, festivals and parades and processions and everything else, we have the Purple Guide.

In 2015 or 2016, the Sports World Safety Authority wrote a new piece of guidance called “The Alternative Use of Sports Grounds” which considers all those challenges that we’ve talked about. Until then, venues were used to working with the Green Guide. But where the Purple Guide doesn’t fit particularly well, we have now got access to the alternative use of sports grounds to remind them of all these things they’ve got to consider.”

Eric continues, “For the security and stewarding teams used to a football crowd, understanding that this is a totally different day at the office, is crucial. It’s about being able to adapt to the crowd that you’ve got and the game that you’ve got. I mean, there’s a huge difference between either Tottenham playing Nottingham Forest or Blackpool compared to Tottenham playing Arsenal or Chelsea or West Ham where there’s old rivalries and there’s higher potential for problems between the fans. The club’s security teams will know take this into account and adapt to steward and secure the crowds.

Alternative use case

If it’s a music event, the security team and stewards should walk in there with a new set of eyes right from the planning stage “They should be thinking, Adele is now coming to Arsenal or Bruce Springsteen is going to Chelsea, but this is not a football match in a football venue, it’s now a completely different event with a different crowd, and a different challenge.” For one you can drink alcohol at a music event, but not at a football match.

“We want to make sure our stadiums are safe and operate safely? We don’t have that with music venues. We don’t have that with festivals, and we don’t have that with concerts. Why? We haven’t had a mass fatality that has triggered a government response. The very fact that the Purple Guide for outdoor events must be written by volunteers giving up their own time to write a piece of national guidance to help people put these events on safely is an indicator, that perhaps, government doesn’t understand the risks or take as seriously the risks at music and outdoor events as they do for indoor events for sports grounds. So, there’s a huge difference between the two. I think, security and stewarding operatives understand that, and I think most event organisers understand it very well and follow the guidance that’s available to them as well.”

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