As Fans Return to Sports Facilities So Do Security Issues – an Interview with Jim Riordan

Oct 8, 2021

Dr. Jim Riordan, the founder in 2000 of the MBA Sport Management program at Florida Atlantic University, was recently the subject of an exclusive interview with Sports Litigation Alert, which follows.

Has the pandemic made sports facilities more secure or less secure, and why?

Individuals who have been charged with the management and operation of professional, amateur and intercollegiate sports and entertainment organizations, as well as those who own and operate the public assembly facilities where events take place, have increased their concern for the proper maintenance and operation of said facilities since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Operating processes that have received increased attention include: access, egress and within-facility movement of guests and employees; deploying of social distancing strategies through the use of ticketing (seat allocation and assignments); attaining cleanliness and sanitizing certification from international accrediting agencies; and the increase in cleaning and sanitizing operations within a facility and/or organization administrative building (achieved through the frequency of applications as well as increase in quality and strength of the products/compounds used in the cleaning and sanitizing process). When it comes time to implement the processes and operations, an increase in staff will be required to properly implement these procedures to ensure the intended result of each operation comes to fruition. Properly trained parking lot attendants, gate/door attendants, building/event security personnel and ushering staff in seating areas always will provide the potential for a safe and pleasant experience for the guest. However, now amid the COVID crisis, there will be additional essential event staff to administer keener, finite and pandemic-specific policies and procedures.

Are there any dangers associated with security with the advent of E-tickets, and if so, what might they be?

Though numbers are quickly dwindling, there remain individuals today who have no desire or enthusiasm to participate in the era of modern technology. They refuse to own or operate a personal computer, cell phone and, in some cases, still make use of a rotary dial telephone. This faction of people makes life somewhat difficult for those sport, entertainment and convention center event managers and their ticketing operations staff. Over the past few years, an increasing number of “sportainment” (sport and entertainment) event managers have been switching to an all-electronic method of ticket distribution and entering the facility (E-ticketing). Event tickets (and in many cases pre-paid parking passes) are sent directly to one’s smartphone for scanning at the venue entrance and/or the venue parking lot entrance.

The main problem with E-ticketing (besides having a still-present fragment of society that refuses to partake in the knowledge needed to use it) is the same predatory issue that invades all modes of computer technology — phishing, hacking, scamming and theft of data. Devices used in E-ticketing are no different from a laptop or desktop. They all are computers and are subject to unlawful invasion and identity theft. Of course, users of smartphones, cell phones, tablets (all devices used in E-ticketing) are encouraged to keep their devices protected by installing and running anti-malware, anti-theft and identity protection software to help alleviate E-Ticket theft (among other items).

What is the most underestimated security risk by facility managers?

A common concern regarding security and crowd management at sportainment events is having non-security or non-crowd-management experts or professionals interfere with the planning and designing of security/event operations.

Specifically, this usually comes in the form of the event’s or venue’s finance team and/or those individuals who were charged with marketing and or booking the event. It is the charge of the finance/accounting team, as well as those working with the event promoter, to put on a high-quality, professional event while at the same time doing so as cheaply as possible. In many (but not all) scenarios, the finance and booking people will look first to cut security, ushering and other event-related staff in order to cut back on the final bill presented to the event promoter. Doing so denies paying guests a well-rounded guest relations experience while they are in attendance.

There also is a very dangerous and irresponsible method of determining event staffing cuts: setting the amount of staffing needed predicated solely on the number of tickets sold. Some finance, booking and marketing executives feel the same minimal staffing levels should be deployed for an anticipated crowd of 5,000 guests, be it for Disney on Ice or the band Metallica. Absolutely not. Event-staffing levels should be determined based on the type of performers/participants, demographics of the expected audience, history of the event and similar type of events. The director of security for the venue should have the final and binding say over all staffing levels.

Are drones still a security risk, and in what ways?

In December 1979, during halftime of the New York Jets-New England Patriots game at Shea Stadium, the Electronic Eagles of the Radio Control Association of Greater New York was performing an exhibition of remote-controlled airplanes. One airplane was in the shape of a lawn mower and went out of control, flying into the stands, hitting two men. One of the men died of his injuries a few days later.

While the technology, design and operation of man-controlled machines (now called drones) has improved tremendously, it should be remembered that the drones and the software controlling the devices are designed by humans. Most importantly, the drones are driven and directed in the communities (some quite dense in population) by humans. When you have human beings operating a machine, there always is a chance for error. The safest way to obtain overhead and side angle shots of the field or court of play is to have the camera attached to a cabling system above the court or field.

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