There’s no doubt the last 12 months have been immensely challenging for the entire human population and the many industries in which we work. Not least the events sector, a normally thriving market that has been essentially mothballed for the last year. As of 2019, the UK events industry was booming and estimated to be worth £70bn in direct spend. Of course, the arrival of Covid-19 and the unprecedented restrictions on society quickly wiped all events off the calendar for the foreseeable future, endangering livelihoods in the process. Many event safety and security companies – as well as their employees – quickly had to diversify or leave the sector all together in search of employment. It begs the question; will there be enough event safety staff available when events re-open?
As the UK vaccination program continues to gain pace, there’s a cautious optimism in the air that events can return this summer. Reading and Leeds Festival are confident that they’re going ahead, whilst test events are happening at the Carabao Cup and FA Cup Finals with a view to having fans return in some capacity to Wembley for the delayed Euro 2020 Championships. Our own business will be taking part in managing event safety at a major test event towards the end of April. Combine all of this with the potential reopening of nightclubs and wider society in June 2021 and we’re all set for a bumper summer of entertainment, music and sport. Or are we?
Even if the vaccination programme does continue to take hold and coronavirus cases don’t rise, other factors could kibosh the amount of events that take place. It’s almost a perfect storm. Let’s explore why.
The Security Industry Authority (SIA), which regulates the UK’s private security industry, has recently made substantial changes to the training needed before you can get a frontline SIA licence. The new qualifications and requirements, which came into place as of April 2021, require learners to have a first-aid qualification before they can undertake the training needed to acquire their door supervisor or security guard licence. This doesn’t solely apply to incoming talent either. Experienced security professionals will all need to have one of the new qualifications or take top-up training to renew their door supervisor or security guard licence from 1st October 2021. Why is this happening?
Well, for a number of reasons. The fact that it will help keep the public safe and make use of new technologies is great. Safety comes first and any event safety and security professional will acknowledge this. It’s also so that everybody is able to follow new working practices and understand the recent changes to the law. So what’s the problem? There’s no inherent issue with this at all; any changes that improve the standards in the security industry is most welcome. It’s just that, unfortunately, it couldn’t come at a worse time as the event safety and security sectors struggle back to their feet.
Remember what we said earlier about people leaving the events industry over the past twelve months as a result of the widespread cancellation of events? The fact is, many of these professionals will have endured a tough year. If they haven’t secured alternative employment, the requirement to spend money on new qualifications – or in some cases retraining – may simply be unaffordable. On the other hand, those who have moved into other sectors may see these new requirements and be put off making a return. Combine that with the fact they may also have a better work-life balance with the family on weekends and you can understand why. 400,000 people were expected to leave the events industry by the end of 2020 without further support. That is a big loss of talent, experience and expertise that we’ll need to quickly get back up to speed and hit the ground running again.
What about new talent arriving into the industry? Having been closed for over a year, the draw of festivals, concerts and sporting events prompting young students or career-changing individuals to think about working in the sector will no doubt have been hit. As events relaunch, it’ll be our responsibility as an industry to really push the events sector as an attractive proposition for an engaging, exciting career. It was particularly interesting to read Dan Adamson’s contribution to the recent edition of The Crowd magazine. He provided an excellent insight into the student community’s questions about current crowd safety academic theory and if it will now need to be amended following the arrival of Covid-19. It’s certainly something we’ll need to consider as events return and challenges come to light.
This unique combination of a global pandemic, new regulatory requirements and the potential loss of talent to other sectors as a result of industry-closure could potentially drive a shortage of stewards, security staff and event safety professionals for the foreseeable future. It is something that has already been mooted in the national media. In November, the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA) expressed concern that fans long-awaited return to football stadia could be hampered by a shortage of stewards. More recently, nightclubs, bars and restaurants expressed similar concerns. The statement from Stuart Glen, who runs a night in North London, made to the BBC recently was particularly telling.
“I imagine it’s going to be more pressured when we reopen. When we go back on 21 June every operator in our field, every festival, nightclub, bar, restaurant, theatre, every event has been gagging to get back on track and suddenly everyone is going to say we need security staff. If we can’t find the staff then we physically can’t open. It’s a major issue”.
That really is the crux of it. Competition on the market will be rife as event organisers and safety firms strive to procure the right talent to put on safe, successful events. Of course, this remains to be seen and is dependent on the continued success of the vaccination roll-out. Yet the fact remains, it’s a headache for anyone in the event safety and security sectors planning for summer 2021.