Premier facilities ensure safety at Ewood Park

While the soccer stars of Blackburn Rovers are doing the business on the pitch at Ewood Park, there’s a much larger team off the pitch ensuring that the fans can enjoy the football in a safe environment.

Jan 31, 2008
By Paul Jacques

While the soccer stars of Blackburn Rovers are doing the business on the pitch at Ewood Park, there’s a much larger team off the pitch ensuring that the fans can enjoy the football in a safe environment.

It involves up to 150 police officers from Lancashire Constabulary and over 300 stewards. The police officers are split into three teams covering outside the stadium, inside the stadium and traffic monitoring duties. Before, during and after the game it’s vital that police and stewards work together to ensure a firm but fair approach to policing and crowd safety.

Having a centralised control room at Ewood Park helps the club to integrate all police and steward activities. The club has invested in state of the art equipment for the now much-improved facility, which is situated within the Darwen End Stand at the ground. Every match day a team of police and civilian operators use this equipment to ensure the off-the-pitch operations always achieve the desired result.

Match commander, Chief Superintendent David Mallaby, has overall responsibility for all police activity on match day. Blackburn’s stadium/safety manager John Newsham works with the police and is responsible for the safety of everyone within Ewood Park, which includes overseeing all the stewarding operations.

Within the control room each police team has an operator monitoring all coded radio conversations so that activity can be recorded centrally and the teams can be directed to incidents when required.

CCTV has proved invaluable as a resource to both police and stewarding operations at Ewood Park. From the moment fans start approaching the ground, the CCTV can track their movements with 54 camera positions strategically placed on main walkways and internal and external stadium areas. In conjunction with the local council, an additional camera was installed opposite the main pub for away supporters, a five minute walk from Ewood Park. This extra camera gives the club the opportunity to spot any potential trouble that could be heading towards the ground.

With the cameras producing high quality images, any problems can be quickly identified on the control room’s CCTV review system, which consists of 12, 15in monitors and a large 32in screen. The two operators can highlight any camera position to colleagues in the room, with Chief Supt Mallaby and Mr Newsham also having their own monitors on the control desk.

In addition to the CCTV monitors, key equipment in the control room includes the door exits control, a system which electronically controls all the entry and exit points within the stadium ensuring that the ground can be evacuated quickly in the event of an emergency. There’s also a stewards’ radio monitoring system, which keeps a log of all radio conversations on match day, and a stewards logging system, which enables a control room operator to see which stewards have reported in for duty, and the stand and role to which they have been allocated. Turnstile monitoring is another vital part of control room activity which is provided by the Ski-data system.

Chief Supt Mallaby said: “Policing Ewood Park is a significant operation as up to 30,000 fans can be turning up and we need to ensure that both their safety and the law are not compromised. Through working closely with John [Newsham] and his team and using the resources of the control room I feel we have established a reputation for firm but friendly policing at Ewood Park, allowing fans to focus on the football.”

Mr Newsham added: “The investment in new equipment for the control room has improved communication channels and the response time to incidents. While the fans watch the football we are keeping them safe and ensuring that troublemakers do not spoil the experience for others.”

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