New Security Procedures

Yesterday, this appeared on the MLS website (link below):

“Major League Soccer announced on Tuesday that it will bring security measures at MLS events in line with those of other North American professional sports leagues, with new individual screening methods upon stadium entry beginning Saturday, April 23 at all Major League Soccer matches, Soccer United Marketing games, or United Soccer League matches played at MLS venues. Under the new policy, all guests will be fully screened, either by use of a magnetic search wand or by a pat down. Each venue will make its own decisions regarding what protocols will be used at events to reach this baseline level of security. Additionally, all bags will be searched, and the league will now prohibit fans from bringing in large purses, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, luggage of any kind, computer bags, camera bags and any bag larger than 14-by-14-by-6 inches.“Public safety is a top priority and the enhanced security measures will ensure that fans are able to continue to enjoy MLS and SUM events in a safe environment,’’ MLS President and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott said in a league statement. Ray Whitworth, MLS’s Senior VP of Security and Operations added: “The safety of our fans, players and staff is paramount.”

First let me say that I totally get the reasoning behind an increased security policy and I have no problem with that concept. Events outside the Stade De France along with chatter about the Belgian terrorist cell targeting or at least taking pictures at English football grounds have made that inevitable. We have seen tragedy in Europe and whilst we can all bury our heads in the sand and say “it will never happen here” there is no reason to discount the chance of this making it across the pond with soft targets like sporting events being credible and real targets.

However, as with many things, like the “security theatre” that is played out mainly for optics at airports across the world daily (see here or here), some aspects of the increased security policy seem absurd or at least over zealous. I have absolutely no problem being patted down, wanded or asked to open my bag and show whats in it. Heck, because I usually carry a DSLR camera we can move to the side and you can take a slightly longer look if you want (like you have done before). I’ll even go in via a designated entrance if necessary so that others are not delayed. I have a valid reason for taking everything I do into the ground and dont bring in anything illicit with me. Even if I did, the constant roaming security and cameras pointed at the south end in particular would ensure I wouldn’t get very far!

Quite apart from my own admitted self interest in the text I highlighted which makes me wonder how I will be able to continue taking pics at games as I have done for each of the last nine seasons without incident (other than existing security checks) the text seems ridiculous for a few other reasons:

  • We live in Toronto, a city with some fairly significant weather changes even over the course of a single day let alone a season. Anyone who has been a TFC fan for more than 5 minutes has at one time or another packed a backpack or bag with sunscreen, a change of clothes, and a rain jacket all at the same timeand had to use it !  I have suffered sunstroke, multiple drenchings and frozen my b******* off at various TFC games over the years as I am sure many others have. Even on a ‘normal’ day, my bag may contain the things I need for the entire day not just the TFC game and when I choose to take the TTC I have no choice but to bring a bag. A backpack is easiest to carry, but sometimes I will bring a small camera bag as that protects my camera and lens.
  • Many folk who are TFC fans – especially on a weekday night game – have no choice and are coming directly from work. Many will have the accoutrements of their day with them. Are they really saying we have to leave expensive electronics or perhaps business related items in our cars on unsecured parking lots? Again, by all means scan us, or look at the backpack, purse, briefcase, computer or camera bag etc …  but an outright ban? Not really sure about ‘luggage’ or ‘coolers’ in this context but didn’t realise they were allowed in the first place.
  • I dont really use a purse (or a murse) but there is no way my wife could or would come to a game without one and she needs more stuff in her bag than she could fit in a clutch bag or whatever they are called. Apart from her phone, wallet, keys she will also have makeup, wipes, lipstick, perhaps some other personal items she may require and a few other bits and bobs. Her bag always seems like a veritable tardis to me, but whats in there is useful not dangerous !
  • They said they would make accommodations for parents and children or those with medical needs so not too worried if we take our son to a few games this year and we need to bring his change bag but that will depend largely on how security handle it and we know from past experience that can vary at BMO Field !

While some of the other clubs around MLS have the new policy posted already, there is nothing yet on the TFC website so I wonder how they are going to handle this? They have no choice in the matter as its a league wide policy not a Toronto FC policy, but I wonder whether they have any wiggle room (or not) in how the policy is enforced. I also have to wonder how this ban will positively affect overall security. If we take the Stade De France attack as the reason for this new policy, they would do well to remember that the perpetrators were refused entry to the actual stadium and committed their atrocities outside the arena, and perhaps beefing up security and paying more attention to scalpers – who are randomly selling to anyone who will buy a ticket – would do just as much to enhance security as making existing season ticket holders, whose details and information are already on file jump through more and more hoops …..

At the end of the day, I totally support enhanced security, but it should be a measured approach designed to increase security and minimise risk without adversely affecting the overall experience for most fans. The one-size-fits-all blanket ban imposed by the league just doesnt do that.


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