Matchday Safety for Disabled Fans

//Matchday Safety for Disabled Fans

MUDSA have officially complained to the club regarding the smoke bomb thrown by a Wolves fan plus the less dangerous, but still problematic, throwing of a pie by a Newcastle fan.

As we all know, this isn’t a new phenomenon and MUDSA made the point that we needed protection. We suggested various options to improve the situation including, moving the away fans to a new location; netting off the first few rows of their area and netting in front of the away fans.

We have now had a response from Jim Liggett, the head of Security at the club and his responses are here. Please scroll down to see the full verbatim response from Jim, but here are the highlights:

We know from experience that netting off / stewarding the front rows of the away section does not totally prevent pyrotechnics or missile throwing. It should also be noted that the Wolves offender was located near the top of the terrace area and so the pyrotechnic that was thrown would not have been prevented or stopped by the front rows being netted and stewarded as described.

Currently the stadium geography and infrastructure together with safety and security concerns associated with certain fixtures, does not immediately identify any other suitable areas to move or accommodate the away supporters from their current location in close proximity to the disabled supporters.

In addition we are re-visiting the potential for a netting solution to be placed in front of the away supporters at matches as deemed necessary. The Old Trafford roof infrastructure does not lend itself to the installation of a full ‘roof to floor’ netting solution. However, our Group Property Services team are expeditiously and proactively looking at other netting solutions from ‘the floor up’ which may help provide some mitigation, protection and reassurance to supporters in the areas adjoining/beneath the away sections.

In addition, we will be arranging for additional sand buckets and fire extinguishers to be deployed in the relevant areas to help facilitate an effective and timely response in the event that there is a future occurrence.

We responded to Jim, asking for the netting solution to be deployed as a permanent item, not “As necessary”.

Jim responded by saying that at the moment they are still working to identify the most appropriate equipment and once installed, it will have to be tested, reviewed and evaluated before the club can make a firm decision on future use.

We see this as a positive step forward and we’re hopeful a long term solution will be found soon. Our thanks go to the club for listening to our concerns and acting upon them so promptly.


Jim’s full email:

Dear Chas,

I am very disappointed and concerned about what happened at our fixture against Wolves. The smoke grenade being thrown from within the away support down into the disabled section is totally unacceptable. I agree that this may well have been a frightening experience for those nearby and I am really pleased that nobody was seriously injured.

The risks posed by individuals using and throwing pyrotechnics is significant and it is an issue that we take very seriously. Our match by match resources, deployments, tactics and intelligence gathering play an important part in the prevention and detection of such instances. However, we know that currently, without full strip searches of supporters, the detection of such pyrotechnic items can never be 100%. Supporters can and do conceal such items within sensitive body areas to help avoid detection. I know that you have mentioned that you and your members have experienced other items being thrown towards the accessible seating area including coins, plastic bottles etc. These are items that supporters can legitimately be in possession of when they enter the stadium. As such, this remains a difficult issue to address. Some items such as coins are very small and it is difficult to prevent or mitigate against during a match when there are those who are intent on engaging in such dangerous behaviour. We do actively monitor CCTV and deploy resources to areas where we suspect such activity may be taking place and we are committed to taking positive action against anyone found to be acting in this way.

As we know the use of pyrotechnics is more prevalent in certain parts of European fan culture. From our intelligence we will know that there is an increased risk of pyrotechnics during certain European fixtures when we know the visiting fans have a propensity to use them as a show of support to their team and in defiance to the authorities. This is an important issue for UEFA who are continually looking at ways to mitigate and reduce such a threat. However, despite extensive fines and sanctions these problems still continue amongst many European clubs.

The issues reported by MUDSA are not totally isolated to themselves and adjoining home areas can also experience such pyrotechnic / missile throwing. However, such instances are not common place and although usually restricted to high risk matches and European opposition, they could in reality occur at any match.

The current measures we employ to prevent and detect such instances of pyrotechnics/missile throwing include:-

  • Pre match intelligence gathering from a number of different sources including the Football Safety Officers Association, the FA, UEFA and the Police.
  • Here at OT we adopt a search of all supporters at the turnstiles
  • Pyrotechnic detection dogs are deployed at away turnstiles
  • Warning signage as to consequences of using pyrotechnics is displayed around internal and external away sections
  • Continuous playing of PA messages warning of dangers of pyrotechnics
  • Sophisticated CCTV systems to continually monitor fans and aid detection of offenders
  • Dedicated fire stewards in vicinity of away section to react to any pyrotechnic incident
  • Pyrotechnic steward response policy
  • Full CES stewarding of all vomitories, segregation line, gangways (as required) and front row of section (as required)
  • Police presence in the away section
  • Robust sanctions applied to identified offenders

We know from experience that netting off / stewarding the front rows of the away section does not totally prevent pyrotechnics or missile throwing. It should also be noted that the Wolves offender was located near the top of the terrace area and so the pyrotechnic that was thrown would not have been prevented or stopped by the front rows being netted and stewarded as described. The use of airport scanning machines do have the ability to detect explosives / liquids. However, we need to look at the practicalities of this approach at a football stadia where we are trying to safely access large numbers of supporters in a relatively short timeframe. The introduction of such equipment has the potential to generate significant safety issues due to the resulting queues, delays and congestion and this is not an approach that we have adopted at this time (I am also informed that Richard discussed this in length in a Fans’ Forum prior to me joining the club). We do however regularly review the technology on the market.

We will still continue to robustly employ the mitigation measures highlighted above to help prevent and detect any pyrotechnics entering the stadium in the first place so as to reduce the risk of any such items being thrown and ultimately putting individuals at risk of injury. In addition we are re-visiting the potential for a netting solution to be placed in front of the away supporters at matches as deemed necessary. The Old Trafford roof infrastructure does not lend itself to the installation of a full ‘roof to floor’ netting solution. However, our Group Property Services team are expeditiously and proactively looking at other netting solutions from ‘the floor up’ which may help provide some mitigation, protection and reassurance to supporters in the areas adjoining/beneath the away sections. In addition, we will be arranging for additional sand buckets and fire extinguishers to be deployed in the relevant areas to help facilitate an effective and timely response in the event that there is a future occurrence. Finally, we are developing a number of contingency plans to deal with situations where despite the interventions already outlined above, we experience objects/missiles being thrown towards supporters in the accessible seating areas and it is deemed necessary to introduce additional incremental action to prevent harm or injury. I am more than happy to discuss these plans with you in due course.

Currently the stadium geography and infrastructure together with safety and security concerns associated with certain fixtures, does not immediately identify any other suitable areas to move or accommodate the away supporters from their current location in close proximity to the disabled supporters.

I trust this helps to explain the current position. I would like to re-iterate that this is an issue we take seriously and we continue to work to ensure the safety and security all those who come to Old Trafford.

Regards

Jim

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2018-10-10T21:01:26+00:00