SBJ/September 24 - 30, 2001/Opinion

IN OUR VIEW

It’s way too soon to talk about recovery or healing. Those are long roads. But at least the games are back. The diversions that are pennant races and home run chases are back. The players are back.

And the fans are back. Many of them, that is, but not all. And therein lies the overriding challenge for teams, leagues and facilities operators in the weeks and months ahead: Security. As America struggles with the aftermath of the horrendous Sept. 11 assault on our very way of life, sports is not exempt from the need to adapt.

In the wake of the devastation at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania, venue operators recognize that people gathered in large numbers need to feel safe.

The business of sport must find a way to ensure its customer base — the fans — that they are safe when attending sporting events. Physical security has become step one of everybody’s business plan.

Most teams and leagues responded quickly to boost security at ballparks, football stadiums, race tracks and arenas. There are new limits on parking and what fans can bring into facilities. Venues have hired additional uniformed police and are conducting pre-game sweeps. Team and venue employees are receiving additional security training, and some facilities are scrutinizing workers’ credentials more closely before allowing them on the premises.

Reasonable precautions such as these are the best way to reassure a still-jittery public that fan safety is a priority.

We all recognize that there are limits to what can be done. Nobody wants metal detectors at the turnstiles. We can’t expect fans to show up three or four hours before game time to subject themselves to rigorous screening. Sports is entertainment for spectators. It is supposed to be fun. And relaxing. For sports business, the challenge will be to find the point at which security is assured without turning off fans.

We’ve been reminded since Sept. 11 of Franklin D. Roosevelt calling the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 a day of “infamy.” But Roosevelt had also said: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

— SportsBusiness Journal

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