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The Return of Large Events Across England

With COVID-19 restrictions easing, the return of all in-person events is closer than ever. However, security measures may need to be put in place at these events to counter anti-social behaviour, manage traffic and help with crowd controlling.

On February 22nd, the government outlined the Spring Roadmap 2021, introduced as four steps to ease lockdown restrictions in England. On May 17th, the nation entered Step 3 of the roadmap, meaning indoor entertainment spaces like cinemas, museums, theatres, and sporting venues could reopen. Plus, live events with capacity and social distancing restrictions in place. The capacity for these events was limited to 1,000 people indoors (or 50% of the venue’s capacity if lower), 4,000 outdoors (or 50% of the site’s capacity if lower), and 10,000 (or 25% of the venue’s seated capacity if lower) for large spaces like stadiums.

Before the pandemic an average festival would typically see around 100,000 people attending, which is a significant number compared to those attending pilot events. As restrictions ease and large-scale events return to normal, more security issues are likely to arise.

The good news

Along with the Spring Roadmap 2021, the government announced the Events Research Programme, published within the COVID-19 response document. This programme aims to examine the risk of transmission of Coronavirus from attendance at pilot events and explore ways to enable people to attend a range of events safely.

The Event Research Programme is in full swing, with a number of pilot events having already taken place in 2021. The government selected these events based on settings that meet a range of criteria, including different audience capacities, outdoor and indoor venues and different layouts. Attendees will be required to take a COVID test both before and after the event to ensure the virus isn’t being spread.

At London’s Wembley Stadium, two outdoor pilot events took place between April and May 2021: The EFL Cup Final on April 25th with 8,000 supporters, and the FA Cup Final on May 15th with 21,000 supporters. Luna Outdoor Cinema also held a number of pilot events across England between May 14-16th, with each venue holding 1,000 people.

Indoor pilot events have included the BRIT Awards on May 11th, at London’s O2 Arena and a legal rave hosted in a Liverpool warehouse on April 30th where more than 6,000 people attended.

The findings of these pilot events will be reported to the Prime Minister to feed into wider discussions around Step 4 of the roadmap. If key statistics, including infection rates, remain at a sufficiently low level, then all legal limits on social contact will be removed on the 21st of June, and sectors that remain closed, such as nightclubs, might be able to open. This will be strictly subject to the government review of the latest available data and the outcome of the Events Research Programme.

The UK’s Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said, “Our sports stars and great performers need us to find ways to get bums back on seats safely. This science-led pilot programme will be the springboard in getting the buzz back of live performance. We’ve supported the sports and arts with unprecedented sums, but it’s now time to make that Great British Summer of live events a reality.”

Large event. Thousands of people. The perfect storm.

If one positive has emerged from the lack of large scale public events taking place over the past 14 months, it’s the lack of opportunity for antisocial behaviour and everything associated with it.

However, once restrictions are lifted across the UK and all events are allowed to be held with large crowds attending, the scourge on society that is anti-social behaviour will inevitably return.

As large numbers of people at events become the norm again, security will become an all-important consideration. Before the pandemic, a mobile CCTV unit was provided as a security solution for the Junction 2 festival in Middlesex, which 4,200 people attended. The mobile unit was located at the festival’s main entrance, fitted with a pan/tilt/zoom camera mounted on a 6m adjustable mast, so the entire entrance could be monitored by the security team. It served as a great visual deterrent for anti-social behaviour too.

Another consideration when managing large crowds is keeping people safe from moving vehicles. Concrete barrier blocks are effective for public safety by creating walkways to separate crowds from traffic.

When thousands of people attend large events, the risk of anti-social behaviour increases significantly. Manned guards and dog patrols can also help provide a much-needed sense of security.

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