Certified FIFA and CAF Safety and Security Expert Dixon Bond Okello has urged stewards and Police to emphasise safety of fans.
Bond said that amidst concerns over pitch invasions and crowd management, there should be a measured approach from authorities.
Okello says that Pitch invasions, often seen at the culmination of matches as fans rush onto the field to celebrate or protest, are indeed disruptive and should be discouraged.
“However, there’s a distinct line between such invasions and spontaneous, joyful celebrations that momentarily spill onto the pitch—a line that requires a nuanced understanding and response,” explains Okello.
“Observing the reactions of stewards and police officers during pivotal moments of a game, such as when a goal is scored, reveals a range of emotions including fear, anger, and aggression.”
Instead of instinctively reacting with force, Okello says that proponents should argue for a more tempered approach, advocating for calmness and observation before intervention.
Okello, also a UK Level 7 Crowd Management Expert, said that the immediate aftermath of a goal sees approximately 30 seconds of jubilation, characterized by ecstatic celebrations, embraces, and singing.
He added that this emphasizes that this spontaneous outpouring of joy typically subsides naturally, especially when not exacerbated by heavy-handed intervention from authorities.
“During moments of celebration, it’s crucial for stewards and police officers to remain calm and observant,” Okello asserts.
“Rather than immediately resorting to force, taking a step back and allowing the situation to de-escalate can often yield better results.”
Okello urges stewards and Police Officers to exercise restraint, particularly when players engage with fans in celebration.
“There’s often a misconception that such interactions pose a threat to safety,” he explains.
“In reality, as long as fans do not encroach onto the pitch, allowing this interaction to unfold for a brief moment poses no significant risk.”
“With proper management and understanding, moments of celebration can enhance the overall atmosphere of a sporting event,” Okello adds.
“It’s important for authorities to prioritize safety without unnecessarily dampening the spirit of the occasion.”
In light of Okello’s expertise and insights, there is a growing sentiment that a more balanced approach to crowd management, emphasizing safety alongside a respect for the joyous spirit of sporting events, is crucial for fostering a positive and secure atmosphere for fans and players alike.