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Security in Football: The Other Side of the Barrier

Football Stewards

It’s 3 o’clock on a Saturday.

You’re about to watch your team battle away for another three hard points.

You’ve been waiting all week to come to this game with your family and there is a potential problem arising amongst the supporters.

What do you do?

For stewards, the answer is simple. You extinguish the trouble as quickly as possible to ensure the safety of the fellow supporters.

But when many stewards often risk their own safety to ensure everyone else is having a good time, it makes you wonder why the guys in the orange coats often get portrayed in a negative light.

Stoke City’s Security Manager Steve Royles knows only too well how taxing it can be to on the other end of one of the visiting supporters chants and to be sung at is just an indicator you’re probably doing your job right.

‘’When you see stewards on television, you see them kind of predominantly lined up lying down by the supporters trackside, preventing supporters from getting over onto the pitch.

‘’In reality, that is only a small part of it. We will have over 300 stewards at Stoke City on a match day and their job is customer service.

‘’When we’re interviewing for stewards, one thing that we are quick to point out is we don’t class the people coming through the turnstiles as supporters. We class them as customers.

‘’We’re here to deliver friendly customer service and I don’t think you see that on the television.

‘’It’s a shame because a lot of Football fans see stewards as the enemy. ‘’

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The self-confessed Stoke fan has travelled watching his beloved Potters for over 30 years, yet Steve knows that stewards can get quite hard time for just trying to do the right thing.

Situated in an office no bigger than 12 feet – Steve Royles appears to many as a very respected man around the club.

It is easy to see his passion for the club and the pride it brings to him, but when you hear him speak about how his stewards getting treated unfairly, you can see an underlying hurt for when his staff get misrepresented.

‘’Stewards are not their to just stop people from being aggressive towards one another, they’re there like you would get an usher in a cinema.

‘’There is a lot more then goes on to stewarding then meets the eye.‘’

Working at Stoke for more than five years, Steve speaks very highly of the Football Clubs communication with the Staffordshire Police.

But unfortunately no matter how well organised the security operation is, Steve knows the unpredictability of human behaviour will always be the downfall in working to protect the public.

‘’There are unfortunately clubs that have a tag, and as such, it make us more aware on a match day that we may have to differentiate a little bit with that group of visiting fans.

‘’We do get a lot of intelligence from the Police so we know which supporters will try and openly interact with the home fans.

‘’I do emphasise however that the vast majority of fans who come to the Britannia Stadium will be very well behaved, but there might just be the odd fan who lets everyone down.‘’

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Working in Football for all of his life, Steve has witnessed many troublesome matches.

But for Steve, the most ‘eventful’ was on Boxing Day in 2012 when Stoke City entertained Liverpool.

‘’Obviously, Boxing Day is a traditional sporting day in the calendar, but it is also a day when people come together after being cocooned on Christmas.

‘’We were presented with an awful lot of drink related problems that night. Drink related problems are unfortunately quite prominent at the minute.

‘’I’ve come to Stoke City matches where I have seen supporters not even get into the game. They have turned up at the turnstiles and they are simply too drunk and the stewards will knock them back – and quite rightly.’’

Growing up with standing terraces, Steve knows that the probability they will find their way back into the game is almost certain.

But when a Security Manager is faced with the prospect of dealing with standing terraces, it can only spell disaster – surely?

‘’I’ve stood on the very end of where the Hillsborough disaster took place. I’ve travelled with Stoke for a very long time and every single I have had to stand and unless you don’t want to see the game, you are forced to stand.

‘’In the days of terraces where you had crash barriers, obviously people stood up all of the time and there was a lot more surges in movement with people as opposed to stadiums where there are seats.

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‘’Obviously the seats don’t give the same kind of flow of movement as they work as a kind of mini barrier. I still think that hopefully people have learnt their lesson in regards to standing terraces.

As the season draws to a close once more, Steve now has the job of making sure everything is all right for the start of next season.

That is of course once he has got the small matter of Steven Gerrard’s last game to facilitate.

‘’We have an exceptionally high profiled game at the end of the season where Steven Gerrard will potentially be making his last appearance in a Liverpool strip.

‘’Because it is Steven Gerrard’s last game, we are expecting a large number of Liverpool supporters to travel without tickets.

‘’In conjunction with the Merseyside Police, the Staffordshire Police will be trying to get as much information as possible before the game. ‘’

Understanding the role of stewarding and security is something that every Football fan should learn to appreciate.

With potentially only one shift every two weeks – it is safe to say stewards do not do it for the love of money.

So next time you arrive at a Football game with your family, remember that the stewards probably just want a nice fixture just as much as you want those all important three points.

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