Event Security: A Global Career
Steve Coleman, Managing Director at Event Security Management Limited, talks to The Crowd magazine about his experiences over a 20-year career in event security. He also provides advice on how to be successful for anybody starting out in the industry.
Back in 1998, I took my first steps into the world of security as I entered the classroom for a qualification in Door Supervision. Little did I know that the course, run at the time by the local council, would lead to an exciting career in major event security. In truth, I’d initially looked at it as a second job to fund as many holidays with friends as the finances would allow. Before I knew it, I was working with a number of experienced professionals on the doors of various licenced premises across Manchester City Centre. It’s fair to say it was an education. I learned the art of clear communication, conflict management and how to excel at managing licensee expectations. Looking back, it gave me a solid foundation to build what has been an exciting, successful career so far.
The years passed and lessons were learned, sometimes the hard way. I joined a company called Special Events that were, at the time, on the verge of a takeover from G4S. It was here that my addiction to event security management was formed. Suddenly, I’d replaced the doors of Manchester’s clubland for huge security operations at the likes of Aintree, Ascot, Cheltenham and Epsom. It wasn’t just limited to horse-racing. From games at Oldham Football Club to live rugby at Widnes – not forgetting the huge crowds of ravers at Global Gathering – it was a real eye-opener. I knew this was where I wanted to be.
It was when the takeover by G4S in 2007 happened that my career really took off. Suddenly, I was able to progress from stewarding fire exits in football grounds to becoming a Regional Manager, overseeing all event contracts across the north-west of England. It all happened very quickly, but thankfully I was able to learn from some of the industry’s best operators. Having the likes of Mark Hamilton, Jim McDonald, Fred Cucchi, Peter Croy, Kevin D’arcy and Mark Grant as points of reference to look up to quickly proved invaluable. One thing I’d say to anyone within the industry – no matter what level you’re at – is that you should always look to keep learning. Alongside the then-Director, Paul Bullen, these people gave me a huge platform to learn from, instilling the values and procedures that would one day play a big part in the success of my own business. “Every day is a CPD (Continuous Professional Development) day”, Paul would say. Very true.
Fast forward to the present day and an awful lot has happened in the last decade, which is testament to this exciting industry and the unique opportunities it provides. During this time, I was Safety & Security Manager for just under five years at Manchester City Football Club and, in 2018, I realised the dream of setting up my own business. This opened up a world of opportunities both domestically and on the international stage, overseeing security operations at the Special Olympics World Games, the Saudi Cup and Diriyah Festival Season. We also managed stadium security operations at the FIFA Club World Cup and AFC Asian Cup alongside assisting SJM on a number of major music tours. One of these was The Spice Girls UK tour. Not bad for someone who only originally got into the security sector to fund his social life right!?
On a serious note though, I feel this experience has put me in the position where I’m able to give something back to the industry. Many of the names I mentioned above played a key role in helping me build a solid platform of skills and knowledge; without them both Event Security Management Ltd and myself wouldn’t be where we are today. So now I feel it’s my turn to help and give new entrants to the market some advice – both to help them develop and improve the industry we work in.
Here are my thoughts on a few points that can help you to be a success in the world of event security and crowd management:-
1) Feel valued
I’ve lived and breathed the feeling of ‘just being a number’ on large event deployments. In truth, there was no consideration for anybody’s ability or skillset. If you happened to be at a certain position in the queue, then you were standing on a fire exit for the next five hours without even seeing anyone (including supervisors on many occasions). The feeling of being treated like a number has always stuck with me. For these reasons, I try to instil the ethos of making our workforce feel as valued as possible here at Event Security Management. If you can do this, you’ll foster a strong team spirit and have a much better chance of retaining the talent in your ranks.
2) Learn from your Line Management & Industry Professionals
I’m privileged to have worked with and learnt from many legends in the world of safety, security and crowd management. I used to watch, listen, ask questions and be generally inquisitive; ask any of the guys and I was probably a pest with my constant questioning! Yet the fact remains that I feel I learned more through exposure to these industry experts than I ever did in the classroom. Of course, I place great importance on the value of education but out in the field, I saw unique management styles, some of which were successful and others which were not. Again, this resonated to such an extent that I try to replicate the best traits of those professionals in my own management style, but in a way that is enjoyable for the team I’m working with. Never be afraid to ask and learn. In my experience, none of my mentors ever failed to spend time educating me when asked in the right way at the right time. Speak up, take notes and learn.
3) Learn from your mistakes
None of us are perfect. Mistakes are how we learn our greatest lessons. If I’m honest, not an event goes by where I don’t think, “I could’ve done that better”, but I’m a huge believer in doing everything possible to ensure we never make the same mistake twice. I’ve stood in event logistics areas where either an unnerving percentage of the workforce hasn’t shown up, gates haven’t opened on time or an ejection wasn’t handled in the correct fashion. For sure, I could write a book on the things that haven’t gone well across my career on events in which I’ve held responsibility for, but as many of those who worked with me know, I’m a firm believer in what makes you bad temporarily can also make you better in the future. So my advice is to learn from the mistakes and become a better person and professional as a result.
4) Educate yourself to your career path
Whether through naivety or simply not seeing security as a career at that point, I never took education seriously at the start of my career. It was only when I was given the responsibility for 55,000 Manchester City fans that I started to take the need for education seriously. Since then, I’ve attended Trainer and Assessor, Crowd Management, Crowd Safety, Counter-Terrorism and Health and Safety courses to name but a few. All of these have given me a solid operational foundation to build from and the knowledge I need in my role planning and delivering major events.
For anyone looking to grow in the event security and crowd management sectors, I would implore them to develop a blend of on-the-ground expertise with classroom-based learning. It will certainly give you – and others – the confidence that you’re able to deliver to a high-level within the industry. Envisage your career path and never stop learning the necessary skills to get there.
5) Spread your sector experience
Don’t hesitate to get as much experience as you can across different areas of the events industry. I used to sign up for any work that was going and that gave me exposure to various event sectors such as political conferences, concerts, festivals and sporting events. At each one of these venues, you will always see ‘good practice’ that you can take away and implement across other events, therefore enhancing your own personal profile. It was only when I moved into the control room on matchdays and saw a potential problem before it became an issue that I realised it was because I’d seen and experienced it at a previous event.
6) Push yourself
To anyone feeling uncertain about their career prospects in their current role, don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone. Throughout my career, I’ve always pushed myself to be better and improve. Many people thought I was crazy when I left my role at Manchester City Football club after nearly five years; indeed I could have stayed in a steady job with a great team of people. However, I personally knew I needed a new challenge to keep developing and maintain my passion for the industry. It became apparent that there is a rapidly developing market with substantial challenges out in the Middle East so we’ve focused on promoting Event Security Management in that region alongside the UK market.
If you’re unhappy or uncertain about your prospects in your current role, don’t be scared to try something new. If you work hard, believe in yourself and apply yourself correctly, then you can and will achieve what you need in your career. This is a wonderful industry to work in and there’s so much opportunity for those who want it. Take it with both hands.
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