Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Appendix: Developing a Comprehensive Response to Spectator Violence in Stadiums

You should consider each stadium event a five-stage process, comprising (1) the initial planning, (2) the preassembly preparation, (3) the assembly process, (4) the assembled gathering, and (5) the dispersal process. Initial planning involves decisions to schedule the event, including the date, time, and contractual arrangements between the venue and the event organizers. Initial planning can begin months or even years before the event. Preassembly preparations include actions just preceding the event, including carrying out plans created during initial planning, marketing, staffing, training, and other preparation activities. How people sell tickets is particularly important. The assembly process begins the day of the event and involves the movement of people to the stadium, through the stadium, and to their seats. Traffic congestion, parking, admission, and other activities occurring before the event are important during this stage. The assembled gathering is the stage when the event is actually taking place—the teams are playing, the band is performing, and so forth. The final stage is the dispersal process, during which the concern is the safe emptying of the stadium and is the reverse of the assembly process.

You should consider potential problems that may arise at each stage when planning for an event. Once identified, you can address these problems using one of the responses listed in this guide, or you may develop your own unique response. Table 1 lists the five stages. Three examples of potential problems and interventions are listed next to each stage. These illustrate the types of activities that typically occur at each stage—they are not exhaustive lists of problems and interventions.

Table 1
Potential Problems and Interventions During an Event's Five Stages

Stage Potential Problems Potential Interventions
Initial Planning
  • decision to host an event where violence is likely to occur
  • lack of adequate controls included in the contract/permits
  • inadequate staff scheduled to manage the event
  • screening requests to host the event
  • including restrictions in the contracts/permits
  • setting minimum staffing requirements
Preassembly Preparation
  • inexperienced staff hired to manage the event
  • promotional efforts attract aggressive spectators
  • event is oversold
  • training staff
  • working with a media/promotion company to attract families
  • selling only one ticket per assigned seat
Assembly Process
  • inadequate parking
  • long lines at entrance
  • contraband (e.g., weapons, drugs) brought into the stadium
  • timing public transportation to relieve traffic congestion
  • hiring enough ticket-takers to facilitate spectator entry
  • screening items brought into the stadium
Assembled Gathering
  • spectators crushed as the crowd moves toward the performance area
  • spectators get drunk
  • spectators attack the performers
  • providing sectioned and personal seating
  • restricting alcohol sales
  • creating access barriers
Dispersal Process
  • spectators delayed as they all try to leave the venue at the same time
  • pedestrian pushing and trampling at the exit area
  • public urination when the restrooms become overcrowded
  • offering after-event activities
  • redesigning the venue to include multiple exit points
  • providing adequate facilities and proper placement

The five-stage framework's practical implication is that a comprehensive response should address the potential for violence at the last three stages: the assembly process, the assembled gathering, and the dispersal process. You should consider how you can block opportunities for violence by implementing interventions at each stage. For example, you may more easily prevent conflicts involving seating—at the assembly process—during the initial planning or preassembly preparation stages.

As you think about potential problems you can address at each stage, remember that six potential forms of violence are possible: verbal, gestures, missile throwing, swarming, property destruction, and physical. These forms of violence can occur at the assembly, gathering, and dispersal stages. Below we present a checklist for developing a strategy to prevent these forms of violence.

The checklist considers the six forms of violence and incorporates the five main categories of situational crime prevention responses (for more information, see www.popcenter.org): increasing efforts, increasing risks, reducing rewards, reducing provocations, and removing excuses.

1. Increasing efforts involves making it harder to misbehave. For example, access barriers make it more difficult for spectators to reach their targets.

2. Increasing risks involves making the perceived penalty for misbehavior more likely. For example, advertising the use of CCTV cameras informs spectators that they are under constant surveillance.

3. Reducing rewards decreases the gain from misbehav­ior. For example, sectioning seating with access barriers decreases the benefits of rushing forward.

4. Reducing provocations involves decreasing inducements to misbehave. For example, assigning seats with tickets and not selling more tickets than there are available seats reduces the incentives for patrons to crowd the ticket booths, gates, and seating sections.

5. Removing excuses involves making it harder for people to justify their misbehavior. For example, stationing ushers at each seating section removes excuses that spectators could not find their own seats, and removing noise meters makes it less likely that spectators will view forceful heckling as acceptable behavior.

Combining the six forms of violence with the five situational prevention techniques reveals 30 intervention categories (see Table 2). A comprehensive response involves using multiple situational approaches against multiple forms of violence. This approach ensures that one intervention's weaknesses are offset by other interventions' strengths.

In the example shown in the table, the response consists of eight interventions aimed at reducing each form of violence. These eight interventions involve all five different situ­ational prevention types and target each form of violence at the gathering stage. Notice that some of the interventions can address more than one form of violence (e.g., CCTV cameras) at more than one stage (e.g., assembly and gathering).

Table 2
Example of a Comprehensive Response

Gathering Stage

Types VERBAL GESTURE MISSILE SWARM PROPERTY PHYSICAL
Increase Efforts       Erect access barriers Bolt seats down  
Increase Risks Set up a hotline Install CCTV cameras        
Reduce Rewards     Erect stage out of target range      
Reduce Provocations           Have personal seating
Remove Excuses   Prohibit obscene and violent hand signals        

Last, we designed the "Planning Framework for Preventing Spectator Violence in Stadiums" checklist to provide you with a useful planning tool when developing a response. Supervisors can also use it for approving a response before implementa­tion. A matrix of situational interventions and the six forms of violence are presented for the assembly, gathering, and dispersal stages. Again, while violence may occur at these stages, you may implement the interventions at an earlier stage (i.e., initial planning or preassembly preparation).

Planning Framework for Preventing Spectator Aggression in Stadiums

Event:_________________________________________  Date: ______________________

ASSEMBLY
Types VERBAL GESTURE MISSILE SWARM PROPERTY PHYSICAL
Increase Efforts            
Increase Risks            
Reduce Rewards            
Reduce Provocations            
Remove Excuses            
TOTAL            
GATHERING
Types VERBAL GESTURE MISSILE SWARM PROPERTY PHYSICAL
Increase Efforts            
Increase Risks            
Reduce Rewards            
Reduce Provocations            
Remove Excuses            
TOTAL            
DISPERSAL
Types VERBAL GESTURE MISSILE SWARM PROPERTY PHYSICAL
Increase Efforts            
Increase Risks            
Reduce Rewards            
Reduce Provocations            
Remove Excuses            
TOTAL            
PLANNING ASSESSMENT*
1. Have you used at least one intervention type for each form of violence at each stage? 
  Yes    No  
2. If not, at which stage are forms of violence lacking interventions?
  ___________________________________________________________________________
3. Have you used at least two situational types for the intervention?                
  Yes    No  
4. If not, which situational prevention types are not used?
  ______________________________________________________________________________
* You should consider changes or additions to your overall action plan if you answered "No" to the above questions.