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This week Charlie looks at attacks at sporting events and wonders whether football, and managers of other sports venues, are ready to respond to a terrorist attack.

Reading about the attack on the team bus of Borussia Dortmund this week, got me thinking about incidents and football and whether this could be a new trend in terrorism; the attack of high profile sports teams. I was thinking about this attack and also the attempt by the Paris suicide bomber to get into the Stade de France to detonate bombs within the crowd.

After doing a little internet research, within 5 minutes I came up with a long list of terrorist attacks on sports teams and events as this is part of an existing trend and nothing new.

Some of the high profile attacks on sports teams or venues are:

  1. The Boston marathon bombing, on April 15 2013, two homemade bombs detonated 12 seconds and 210 yards (190 m) apart at 2:49 p.m., near the finish line of the annual Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring several hundred others, including 16 who lost limbs.
  2. December 2016 where Kurdish militants have claimed responsibility for killing 38 people and injuring 155 with a car bomb and a suicide bomb attack outside a football stadium in Istanbul.
  3.  On route to their cricket match versus Pakistan on Tuesday, March 3 2009, the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked by roughly a dozen gunmen, who fired an assault of rockets, grenades and multiple rounds of ammunition at the cricketers and their police escorts. Eight were killed and six injured.
  4.  During the 1972 Munich Games, the Palestinian militant group Black September took the Israeli national team hostage, eventually killing eleven athletes and coaches and one German police officer after a 16-hour standoff.
  5.  Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park was designed as the ‘town square’ of the 1996 Olympics. On July 27, thousands of spectators gathered for a public concert. Unbeknown to them, Eric Rudolph, a former explosives expert for the United States Army, had planted a knapsack containing three bombs underneath a bench, killing two people and injuring 120.
  6. New Zealand Cricket team 2002, a suicide bomb blast outside the team’s hotel in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi left players unhurt but killed 11 including the teams physiotherapist.
  7. The Grand National was abandoned in 1997 after two coded bomb threats were reportedly received from the IRA. 60,000 spectators (including Princess Anne), jockeys, race personnel and local residents were evacuated, and the course was secured by police. The race was eventually run two days later however some 20,000 people were left stranded over the weekend, as cars and buses were locked inside the course.

One event, which hasn’t happened (yet), is an attack inside a stadium. I wonder how well prepared those who manage the stadiums and the security response plans are for this type of attack? There was the case of a security contractor leaving a dummy explosive device in the toilets of Manchester United, which lead to the abandonment of the game against Bournemouth. I am not sure, in this case, whether it was good that they practiced their response or did it just show that they were using incompetent security personnel?

As part of my PhD study, I read an interesting paper entitled “Cultural Readjustment After Crisis: Regulation and Learning from Crisis Within the UK Soccer Industry” by Dominic Elliott and Denis Smith. They looked at disasters in football stadiums such as the Bradford fire, Hillsborough, Heysel Stadium and Ibrox and concluded at the end of the paper that although stadium design has greatly improved, those managing security and the safety of spectators have not really learned the lessons from these disasters.

I am not an expert of incident management within football or other public sporting gatherings and would be interested in hearing from any bulletin readers, their thoughts and experience of sports venues’ level of preparedness!

Have a good and a safe Easter.

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