Football & terrorism: what you should know

Police outside emirates PA 35845357

This season you may have seen more police officers at grounds and more stringent searches before going through the turnstiles. Here National Counter Terrorism Policing's deputy assistant commissioner Lucy D'Orsi answers questions from fans navigating this age of heightened security...

Why are counter terrorism police officers working with football clubs?

We have been working with lots of different organisations that operate in what we call crowded places. These are exactly as they sound, places where lots of people congregate – like shopping centres, entertainment venues and sports grounds.

The aim is for the police and those responsible for safety in shops, bars, hotels, football clubs etc to work together to make these places even more secure for visitors. We want to make terrorist attacks less likely to take place or, if they do, less likely to succeed.

Specialist officers have worked with lots of different sports organisations including rugby, cricket and horse racing. But, as football has such a huge fan base, we began our ‘ACT (Action Counters Terrorism) for Sport’ programme with the Premier League, EFL and FA.

We have held workshops which all Premier League and EFL clubs have attended – plus some from the National League. Counter terrorism officers have explained the nature of the current threat and, together with club security staff, we have looked at ways of making stadiums even safer.

Does this mean football clubs are targets for terrorists? Should fans be worried?

My view is that supporters should always be ‘alert not alarmed’.

The chances of an attack at or near a football ground remains small but we have seen that terrorists will target crowded places. The attacks in Paris in November 2015, where terrorists exploded devices outside the Stade de France, was a game changer for us.

We had to rethink how we did protective security in the UK. We were already working with private industry but we knew we had to do even more together.

We also needed to explain the threat to the public better and encourage everyone to play a part in helping keep us all safe.

Then, of course, we had the five attacks last summer, four in London and one in Manchester. These involved a number of methods of attack using explosives, knives and vehicles as weapons. The deliberate targeting of a concert attended by children, at the Manchester Arena, was particularly shocking.

At the time everyone in the country became acutely aware of the threat, but then life moves on and other stories begin to dominate the news.

One of the biggest challenges for us – especially when there hasn’t been an attack for some time – is to keep the public alert to the threat without overly alarming them. We want everyone to go about their normal lives and to go to the football, rugby or whatever sport they follow and enjoy their day. Just remember to always be vigilant and report any concerns to staff. Don't leave it to someone else.

How does it affect clubs when the terrorism threat level is raised?

When this happens we ask organisations operating in crowded places to step up their security. For supporters going to football matches this could mean more detailed security checks on entry. It might mean a greater police presence, including armed officers. In some cases there could be additional barriers and road closures.

All these practical differences will be communicated to supporters through club and police social media, and local media. And we will appeal to everyone to appreciate that any extra inconvenience is for everyone’s benefit – so to please cooperate with police and stewards.

What can fans do to help tackle terrorism?

Our main messages to supporters are these: 
► Arrive early, allowing more time for security checks
► Minimise what you carry, fewer bag searches will speed up entry to the stadium
► Be vigilant at all times and if you see anything suspicious, tell a steward or member of staff right away
► If you see anything that could pose an immediate threat to safety, call 999
► In an emergency, if you are already inside the stadium, listen to the Public Address instructions and follow them
► If told to evacuate, do so immediately, do not wait around to film events on your mobile
► Move right away from the stadium as quickly as possible for your own safety and to allow clear access for any emergency vehicles
► Once you are safe, follow local police on Twitter for updates

Please share them and encourage everyone to ACT and play their part. Whoever you are cheering for on matchday, the best result is always that everyone goes home safe.

Thanks to PA Images for the picture used in this blog.

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