Footballers: a duty of care

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Footballers: a duty of care

“Football attracts big money and that comes responsibilities and a duty of care towards players and their families”

Footballers: a duty of care

by Alex Bomberg, Group CEO
08 August 2019 | Close Protection

soccer players security concernsSoccer or Football as we also like to call it in the UK is a huge industry that draws massive sponsorship deals and rock star lifestyles and wage packs to match. During the 2018/2019 football season, the average professional footballer in the English Football League Championship is said to have earnt £6.11 million Pounds or $8.6 million U.S. Dollars.

The two northern Football clubs of Manchester United and Manchester City topped this list with London-based Chelsea in third place.

Soccer is the number one sport in the UK and easily across most of Europe and according to Deloitte, the European football market was worth a record €25.5 billion (£21.9bn) in 2018. To put this figure into perspective, this is more or less the same amount of money as Israel or Canada spend on Defense each year.

Are football players being put at risk?

Back in 2009, the UK’s Guardian newspaper did an article in which they revealed that “In three years, 21 Premiership footballers' homes have been burgled in the north-west, often while the players were at a match”. This is not just a UK problem, Police in Spain reported that 15 Valencia and Real Madrid had been targeted by organised criminals, with one player Lucas Vazquez said to have had his home “gutted” whilst on holiday with his family. In France too this is becoming a major issue with players homes being targeted, a prime example is three Lyon players were burgled while their club was playing Barcelona and for one of those players, it was the second time he had been burgled; the first occasion property valued at of €1 million was taken.

soccer players attackedOf course, this is the tip of the iceberg, how many of these robberies go unreported in the press?

July 2019 saw a sinister turn to targeted robberies on Soccer players with what was described as the attempted carjacking on Arsenal players Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac.

London has a prolific problem with moped gangs carrying out a range of criminal activity from running and dealing drugs, through to carrying out gang-related stabbings and shootings; and of course, street robbery including carjacking.

The latest security incident with Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac in London has again highlighted the issue of footballers being targeted.

In November 2016, West Ham United footballer Andy Carroll was driving home from training when there was an attempt to rob him at gunpoint while he was waiting in his car at traffic lights, the attempted robber then gave chase on a motorbike in a chase that lasted a few miles. Carrol got away and the two perpetrators were arrested and later sentenced to six years.

Professional Security for footballers

There is a major issue of duty of care that seems to be overlooked by the top tier football clubs. They have “assets” worth millions in wages each year and they are doing little to provide ‘the correct level of security’ or security training or advice to players.

Look at the average social media profile of top sport stars and you will start to see the problem. There is a fine balance between publicity – remaining in the public eye and placing too much personal information in the public domain. It is that balance that we discussed in the article “Social Media, your ego and security”, where we looked at the example of Kim Kardashian being targeted in a robbery in Paris. A robbery that netted an estimated £8 million pounds in jewellery.

football players social media risksSo, given the amount of money in Football and the level of earnings, how are football clubs and players getting it wrong when it comes to security?

To answer that question, it is important to understand what they perceive security is, because gone have the days of ‘big blokes in jackets following you around all day’ getting in the way and affecting your personal life. That is not what professional security is all about. Professional security adds something and does not take away, it offers value for money and is intelligence-led.

What will an intelligence-led approach give you that just ‘throwing manpower at it’ give you? Well, an intelligence-led security service will look at everything and will be proactive rather than reactive, monitoring online social media, liaising with police and planning travel, increasing and decreasing security as required.

This approach includes providing a 24-hour presence at the players homes and a review of all technical security.

What is the cost of a professional security package?

Those seeking around the clock security services for themselves and their families can expect to pay in excess of £400,000 per year for an intelligence-led package that includes high-caliber security operatives.

Of course, a level of security can be achieved for less. There are issues associated with trying to ‘do’ security on the cheap and these will lead to points of failure, that will in the medium or long-term put clients and their families at risk.

It is vital that a client knows and understands from day one what they are paying for and that it is fit for purpose, and that the security is externally reviewed periodically.

Getting personal security on the agenda

It is a fact that no one wants to talk about personal security, it’s expensive and if not done right, intrusive. The boards of football clubs, legal departments and players all need to get security on the agenda and not just once; personal security needs to be taken seriously, because trying to deal with the situation after an incident is not ideal, it’s reactive and does not allow for a proper solution after a security audit has taken place.

Where does a Club’s duty of care start and where does it end? Well, that is a question that will prompt a few discussions!

Reviewing recent incidents such as the Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac attempted carjacking or the robberies on players homes and it is easy to see single or multiple points of failure that would have been mitigated by either having, Security Awareness Training, Defensive Driver Training or just great Close Protection.

Security Awareness Training should be a key element in combatting threats. There will be times when a celebrity, member of a Royal family or High-Net-Worth Individual is alone or in an intimate party without Close Protection. It is at those times when they are vulnerable and may need to call upon the skills learned during Security Awareness Training. It’s very much a self-help approach that will assist in decision-making if an incident was to take place – and of course may help to avoid an incident taking place in the first instance; after all, learning not to become a victim is an integral element in Security Awareness Training.

If you are interested in discussing the specialist security services that Intelligent Protection International Limited offers, please do get in touch +44 207 4566740 or email: info@intelligent-protection.co.uk.

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Intelligent (UK Holdings) Limited Group of companies is involved in many different areas of security, from the manufacture of body armour and military equipment, to close protection, counter intelligence and training. This blog covers much of our work, includes useful insight, articles and ideas.

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