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Security expert calls for ban on bags at football grounds

Newcastle United have already asked fans not to take bags to matches.

Football clubs should ban bags at grounds, according to a former national counter-terrorism adviser.

Newcastle have already asked fans not to take bags to matches, a move welcomed by one of the club’s fans’ groups.

But Lee Dodderidge believes the heightened terror threat means clubs should bar the vast majority of fans from carrying bags to matches to minimise the need for searches and reduce the security threat.

Security staff check bags at an entrance to Portsmouth's Fratton Park ground (Daniel Hambury/EMPICS)

Dodderidge, who also advised on security at the London 2012 Olympics, told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Venues like stadiums, there is a high volume of footfall where they’ve got to get people in as quickly as possible.

“In today’s current climate, where terrorist groups are looking at targeting large groups of people like the vehicle attack that we’ve just witnessed in Barcelona, you can remove that opportunity by not having large amounts of people waiting for people in front of them to have bags searched.

“We have to make sure that people can come and enjoy a football match, but in doing so make sure that everybody else is safe coming into a football stadium.”

Newcastle issued advice to fans attending games, including reinforcing the club policy to search all bags at entry points to the ground and asking fans to minimise what they carry to matches.

Newcastle United's St James' Park (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Steve Storey, head of safety and security at Newcastle, said: “The safety of all supporters is of paramount importance to us and various measures have been introduced to improve security in and around the stadium.

“Whilst the police are keen to emphasise that there is no intelligence to suggest that our stadium is a target for any terrorist activity, these measures are a reasonable and proportionate measure to take in light of recent attacks elsewhere.”

Steve Hastie, of the supporters’ group NUFC Fans United, said on 5 Live: “Bags have always been searched at Newcastle United, that’s been a prerequisite.

“We get searched to make sure we are not bringing in alcohol, pyrotechnics and that type of thing.

“It’s part of a much, much bigger security operation that’s been taking place outside the ground.”

(Steve Paston/PA)

Premier League and EFL clubs were advised on ground safety, including bag searches, during summer security briefings at Wembley and Old Trafford.

Karen Eyre-White, the chief executive of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, attended the briefings and believes clubs should decide on an individual basis if they want to impose a ban on taking bags to grounds.

Eyre-White told 5 Live: “It is a huge logistical challenge. It’s absolutely essential that this segues with other safety plans that the grounds have got in place. There’s a real challenge around searching bags.”

Eyre-White did not suggest a blanket ban, adding: “I think it needs to be down to each ground. The searches that need to be done at each ground will be different. It’s for clubs to work with local police experts, which they are doing, in order to work out what measures work at their ground.”

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