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MLB recommends clubs extend netting in effort to improve fan safety

NASHVILLE, Tenn — Fan safety has become an increasingly important issue for Major League Baseball. In the past year, there have been multiple incidents where fans have been injured or hospitalized due to errant bats and balls.

Commissioner Rob Manfred has indicated in the past that he would look into new procedures to ensure fans feel safe at the park, and he rolled out some new recommendations concerning fan safety Wednesday. The main focus of that message involved Manfred encouraging clubs to add more protective netting at their parks.

Here is the relevant passage from the press release:

Clubs are encouraged to implement or maintain netting (or another effective protective screen or barrier of their choosing) that shields from line-drive foul balls all field-level seats that are located between the near ends of both dugouts (i.e., the ends of the dugouts located closest to home plate, inclusive of any adjacent camera wells) and within 70 feet of home plate.  The Commissioner’s Office has retained a consultant specializing in stadium architecture and protective netting to assist interested Clubs in implementing this recommendation.

On top of that, Manfred has recommended each club continues to find new ways to educate fans about the dangers of flying bats and balls, and will provide teams with resources to assist in this development. He would also like teams to make it more clear which seats will and won’t be behind protective netting during the online ticket buying process.

All three directives are a step in the right direction, but it’s fair to wonder whether Manfred and MLB went far enough. Manfred has the power to make every team implement these new measures, but instead decided making recommendations was the best option.

In fairness, a couple teams have already come out and said they will put Manfred’s suggestions into effect.

As our own Jeff Passan notes, he expects most, if not all, of the teams to follow suit soon. Shortly after MLB made the recommendations public, the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox also announced they would comply.

Fan safety is clearly an important issue, and teams probably don’t want to go against the commissioner. Manfred is calling it a “recommendation,” but clubs are going to take that more seriously considering he’s the man in charge.

Still, it would be nice to see Manfred assert his full power here. But if all teams ultimately follow his lead, and fans are safer, the main goal will be accomplished. If certain clubs attempt to push back, it will be interesting to see whether Manfred decides to take more serious actions.

Safety Changes and the Fan Experience

IAVM, December 08, 2015

by Nathaniel Stahlecker

It started with a sign and grew to an act of terrorism. Security protocols and prohibited items lists across the country went under review when a couple of activists decided to send a message to Bank of America at a Carolina Panthers game. Eleven days later, the first ever terrorism attack on a stadium and the equally horrible acts that followed in Paris. Now most venues are looking at the entire scope of their security plans.

The activist group that decided that repelling at a NFL game would be a good idea was very misinformed. No matter the message they were trying to send or how skilled they are at repelling, they still put their lives and others’ lives at risk. It is not my place to speculate on how they pulled this off, but reading current events is what keeps us sharp. This led me to look at the prohibited items lists for stadiums across the country. Nothing I have found to date mentions anything about rope or climbing gear, however most do include that the stadium has the right to prohibit any items they consider a security risk. The one thing that a written policy like this doesn’t include is human error. If we’re honest with ourselves, most of our staff has not seen climbing gear or other unknown items people may try to bring in the future. We can sit here and write page upon page of prohibited items, but what we need to do is train (and constantly re-train) our staff to ask questions or stop guests at the gates if someone has an unusual personal item.

Signs have been a part of all sports from the beginning. Taking away signs isn’t the answer but setting size limits and rules around proper usage is probably the next best thing. Most stadiums and venues already have these policies in place and probably haven’t had any issues. Personally, my experience has come from working at stadiums with an MLS tenant and I like the approach they’ve made. There is the typical wording about obstructing others’ views/stadium signage, attaching signs to poles, attaching signs to stadium walls/rails, and what type of material a sign is made of. However, most teams have a supporters section where designated members can get access to the stadium before gates open to attach banners to stadium property, set up flags on poles to wave, and use extra noise makers (ex: drums). In addition, these items live at the stadium and are brought in and out of storage by stadium staff before and after each game to avoid any confusion at the entry gates.

Tragedy is an understatement for what happened in Paris, and we need to learn from it. Stade de France faced three suicide bombers and none of them made it past the entry gates. I’m not sure if any or all three actually attempted to enter, but I would like to think that the stadium’s security saved hundreds, or maybe thousands, of lives. On the other hand, at the Bataclan reports stated that 89 lives were lost during the terrorist attacks. I am unaware of the levels of security at this venue, but this is something we have to prevent. It is interesting to see the different levels of security at various venues, and minimal standards are needed. The NFL has possibly set the bar, with most stadiums incorporating two perimeters, one to help reduce prohibited items at the gates, and then again at the gates themselves. Once you’re at the gate, your bag is checked and you will walk through or be wanded by a metal detector. This is a similar gate process that you will experience at other professional stadiums and arenas. It is important that fans understand why these checkpoints are in place, and their safety is worth any delay entering any venue.

This attack has prompted the National Fraternal Order of Police to file a protest against the NFL to change their policies on off-duty officers’ ability to carry during a game. I can see the argument on each side of the table and understand that now more than ever the point to have more weapons for defense does make sense. Nevertheless, this reminds me of an emergency response training I took through FEMA. In the state of emergency, first responders set up an incident command to evaluate the situation, make tactical decisions, and deploy resources. Life isn’t the movies and a Steven Seagal character will probably not be there to save the day. It is important that anyone with any training helps get who they can to safety, and if able to further aid, report to their station to get further information and deployment.

Implementing changes to prevent either of these breaches of security in the future will have several effects. First, expenses will increase as most venues may need to add staff, equipment, or spend more on training, and second the fan experience will change.

Do the changes your venue makes increase the screening time for each guest?

Does this lead to longer lines at the entrance?

If yes, how do you manage the lines to reduce the amount of guests in one area outside the stadium?

Do we prohibit or encourage off-duty officers to carry firearms?

If yes, what do you do if you catch an officer with a beer in hand?

How do you protect the outside areas of your venue?

What type of information and intelligence can we gather beforehand?

What should the max number of items be for a prohibited items list, knowing how much an average worker/guest can remember?

Do you allow fans to still bring signs to games?

What is the proper amount of time spent to train a staff member?

Is it possible to add lines of protection without adding a cost?

Where do safety and security end and an enjoyable guest experience begin?

These questions and the increased awareness and internal reviews should just be the start of larger conversations that should spread across all venues no matter the size or type of events hosted. A general security plan does not fit all buildings or budgets but the collaboration between ourselves and local law enforcement should be at the forefront of discussions. This is where networking not only helps your career but your current employer. I leave this as an open discussion for all to partake.

University of Houston launches probe into football game security

Reuters By Ruthy Munoz December 6, 2015 8:56 PM

HOUSTON (Reuters) – The University of Houston launched an investigation into how security guards reacted to fans who rushed the field in celebration after the school’s football team won its conference championship game, the university said on Sunday.

Several online videos show security guards striking and tackling fans who were running onto the field after the University of Houston beat Temple University 24-13 in the American Athletic Conference Championship game on Saturday.

“I am alarmed and extremely disappointed by the unprofessional performance and offensive behavior of some of the” security guards, Tillman Ferttida, the chairman of the board at the University of Houston, said in a statement.

Ferttida said the university will investigate to determine whether it will seek criminal charges or civil actions against Contemporary Services Corp, a California company that is contracted to handle security at the school’s football games.

“Any actions by CSC personnel that contradict our training, CSC’s other requirements, or the law, are not condoned by CSC and will not be tolerated,” the company said in a statement, adding that it will conduct its own investigation.

Company officials were not immediately available for comment.

(Editing by Brendan O’Brien and Jonathan Oatis)–nfl.html;_ylt=AwrBT4GMQGZWLoEA4VVXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEyMThrbnRpBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjA5MTNfMQRzZWMDc2M-

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