Emergency Preparedness Measures for Sporting Events
Sports fans can be rowdy. But when they cross the line at a game, who pays? Incidents of fan abuse can involve legal liability, especially when they trample on an athlete’s rights to a safe working environment. What emergency preparedness measures can help mitigate the threat?
Getting emergency preparedness measures right requires understanding liability
The first measure needed is getting a grasp on the compliance environment.
In Australia, for instance, harassment is a form of discrimination, prohibited by Commonwealth legislation, such as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Act. Australia also has federal racial discrimination legislation outlawing offensive behaviour based on racial hatred.
Further, anti-discrimination law makes it unlawful to treat a person less favourably on the basis of particular protected attributes, including gender, sexual orientation, race, disability, or age.
Meanwhile, employers also have a legal duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of their employees, a duty which might be breached if bullying or harassment occurs in the workplace.
For athletes, though, the bar to prove their claims of harassment is high. In the U.S., holding sports organisations liable entails proving that the harassment was unwelcome, based on a protected characteristic, and sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the condition of employment and create an abusive environment. That can be a challenge.
Of course, this shouldn’t let sporting organisations and venues off the hook for seeking to control sporting environments.
Integrated emergency preparedness measures to prevent or correct harassment
Instead, sporting stakeholders might consider taking the extra step and setting down explicit codes of conduct for spectators. The process would entail:
- Prohibition of disruptive and destructive actions occurring before, during, or after events
- Repeated written communication of said policies and penalties to fans
- The use of media to counteract images created by prior instances of fan abuse
In addition to those policies, stakeholders should take an integrated safety and security approach to the management of the lifecycle of the sporting event. That approach would entail the following:
Involve multiple stakeholders in the mitigation of, preparation for, response to, and recovery from incidents at sporting events. Venue owners and operators have a clear role here, as well, especially if the venue is not owned by the sporting organisation.
Sporting officials should meet with police and venue stakeholders – not just security teams but Safety Management and Guest Services, as well – to identify sporting events which pose the greatest risk of disruption. From there, all stakeholders need to plan out specific procedures to discourage and respond to fan disruptions (up to and including violence).
A crucial component will be training staff once procedures are hammered out. To this end, remember that incidents often don’t constitute security breaches. They might, though, constitute a pattern of workplace harassment. And, as such, they don’t just deserve security attention but active and aware Safety and Guest Services staff, as well.
Other preparation and mitigation measures to consider include:
- Local police. For high-profile sporting events, involve local police in crowd management, including in guarding areas where fans are likeliest to congregate after the games. Police presence ahead of time might dissuade fans from assembling later.
- Crowd management. Venue security, third-party contractors, and/or police patrol throughout the contest might also be necessary to control unruly behaviour, especially during events where the sale of alcoholic beverages is permitted.
- Crisis communication. Preparing a crisis communication strategy is also important. Teams and sporting leagues likely have spokespeople to handle or coordinate media inquiries and interviews about disruptive incidents that come to public attention. In their turn, venue owners and operators should have corresponding media representatives, too. All communication stakeholders should coordinate ahead of time to ensure they stay on message throughout the incident.
- Relaying fan messaging. Once the team or league has issued a fan code of conduct, ticket notices and other fan-facing communications should be printed, replaying the same basic message. Fan signs and banners, often the locus of controversy, might need to come under a centralised policy, though these policies should be worked out with Legal buy-in and communicated to fans well before the contest begins.
Finally, emergency preparation measures are meant to ensure that the response to an incident by a fan or fans goes smoothly. But that’s not all. What else will it take? Download our guide to racial abuse at sporting events to find out.