Did they increase security or did they increase stewards...?

Monday 14 October 2019 - Abbey Petkar, Managing Director, Magenta Security


Did they increase security or did they increase stewards...?

The recent knife related attack at a venue in Birmingham poses some interesting questions – not least of which is the type of security on site at the time on the incident.  Rumours (and note this is only what I have heard on the grapevine) suggest that the organisers were made aware of a heightened security risk a day or so before the event.  This in turn led to an almost doubling of the number of security guards in attendance at the event.  I have used the term “organiser” because I am personally not aware of whether the responsibility for security was with the BBC, the venue, or another third-party promoter or organisation. 


There will no doubt be plenty of discussions, name calling and blame from all sides as both police and internal investigations progress.  However, the one question that might not be asked but is often most important when it comes to event security is the types of guards on duty during the event and the incident itself.  


Time and again I have seen organisers mix up the roles of security guards and stewards.  I don’t know if it was the case for this recent attack but questions have to be raised as to the experience and knowledge of the guards at the event.  Were they true security guards – or as is so often the case at events simply stewards wearing a security tabard? 


A large number of high-vis jackets tends to make crowds think they are safe, being looked after and generally secure.  However, not all high-vis wearing individuals are the same, with the biggest difference being between stewards and security.  To the public it might not appear to matter but those two groups will have undergone very different levels of training and are there for a very different purpose.  Consequently, organisers of events need to fundamentally appreciate the difference in the two roles and plan accordingly. 


Stewards are a vital part of any event, they help guide participants, marshal larger crowds, offer advice and are ultimately a front-line, customer service focused role.  A good steward should have a wide understanding of the event, be aware of where facilities and infrastructure are and generally be able to help answer most questions a visitor might throw at them.  


Security guards are a different matter altogether.  First of all, they should be licensed professionals, they should be part of a wider security team focused on safety.  They are not there for an organiser to hastily reassign to another role or “borrow for a few minutes” and they must at all times adhere to their assigned tasks, taking their lead from no one other than the head of security.  


There is a perception that a lot of stewards on site will make people feel better and safer.  However, this is not necessarily backed up by reality.  Organisers must make the distinction and ensure they are hiring the right people for the right job.  Stewards are vital and have an important role but they are not a substitute for licensed security professionals, in fact it is worth noting that stewards are not licensed.  On-site security needs to be handled by professionals who know what they are doing and are capable of reacting the right way under pressure.  So my question is a simple one – when the threat was raised before the recent attack – what type of additional staff were brought on board to help?