Over at The Administrator, they have an article up related to security at the 2010 World Cup which they preface with some thoughts on security at youth soccer complexes:
Facility security is a crucial yet often overlooked concern for youth soccer organizations. For many clubs, facility security is limited to a volunteer (armed with a walkie-talkie) on site during games. This is simply not enough anÂymore, the risks are too great. Fortunately, with a relatively small financial outlay the club can acquire the assistance of an off duty officer during facility hours. By simply parking a police car at the entrance, the club will realize a huge reduction in potential threat. Furthermore, the club can highlight their local officer on the clubâ€™s website, to add an additional layer of preventative security. Your members will recognize the clubâ€™s efforts, and will be thankful for protecting their most valuable asset.
I’m curious what other leagues do to handle complex security. I’ve seen a police presence at big tournaments, but usually just at the large sites. But even then it’s maybe an officer or two. It also depends on the size of the complex, its location, and the number of people attending at any given time. As an example, our soccer complex is 4 full size fields. On a given Saturday, we might have 7-10 matches going on in the morning on the small sided fields with probably 300-500 people milling about including the kids. We don’t specifically request security, but city police do roll through occasionally. A couple of years ago, due to some parent issues on the sidelines, we had an officer at the entrance on match days (usually Saturday) at the request of the City Council. But that doesn’t happen much any more and our sidelines have improved gradually over time.
The main question is, does having a police presence at the complex every day improve security? Do you rotate the coverage around to make it ‘random’? What kind of issues are you likely to see that would call for a police presence vs league officials?
Our league does not actively bring in security for game days as a rule, but we will request a police presence if we know of upcoming matches between teams where there have been problems in the past. Usually this entails parking a cruiser in a prominent location and having officers on site during the match. For large events, like tournaments, we will hire off-duty officers. But the financial outlay to have an officer at the complex every time it is in use would run over $600 a week. That’s just not feasible. It gets even more difficult if your league doesn’t have a ‘complex’, but instead has to utilize fields in multiple locations.
Obviously, the safety of our children must be a top priority, but you also have to take into account how useful having a constant police presence will be. It may be just as effective to have them show up at random times during the week, say a few hours a week. Leagues should also keep track of ‘problem’ matchups and opponents, both internally and teams coming in from out of town, so they can proactively request some presence at those times. I think the suggestion of parking a cruiser at the facility on random weeks will do a lot, so it’s worth asking your local department about it. But trying to provide blanket coverage will add a significant amount of expense to a soccer league’s budget, and may not provide any more security than random presence might.
The Administrator is right that security is an area often overlooked by youth leagues. How would you handle an ‘event’ at your soccer complex? Do your league officials even have radios? Do they use them? Do you have a plan in place for large events, or some known situations like an intoxicated parent, someone violating a restraining order, etc. This is where leagues need to really ensure they have their bases covered – risk management and emergency response. From fast approaching storms (do your walkie-talkies have a weather radio in them?) to fights, does your league have officials who are ready to respond with the assistance of local law enforcement if needed?
I don’t believe one solution will work for all leagues, but putting a plan in place gets the right people in the league thinking ‘what if’ and how to handle it.