Crimes and misdemeanors - the perils of attending live sporting events

Professor Gil Fried

Posted: October 14, 2014

Tagged: fans / risk / security / stadiums

While most professional sport fans enjoy watching sports on TV, going to a live game can be a hazardous trek. There are numerous examples of fans gone awry.  Recent research has identified that around eight per cent of fans at surveyed professional baseball and football games had a blood alcohol level above the legal driving limit.   Countless fights and dispute arise in stands across America.  Many teams have launched campaigns to improve fan behavior, allow fans to anonymously report problems, and have stepped up crowd management efforts.  These efforts include more CCTV cameras, more security, more comprehensive entry screening, and other strategies.  Yet, with all these strategies the newspapers are still continually reporting issues associated with fan misconduct.  In 2013 alone there were several major injury and death cases involving fans who fell over railing, just as one example.

One of the often overlooked areas of fan safety is the parking lot and travel to and from the facility. Most fans do not think about concerns in the parking lot or getting to facility.  They think about the excitement going to the game or possibly the apprehension of rowdy and/or drunk fans in the seating bowl.  However, recent incidents helped show that fights in the stands have spilled out to criminal acts  and injuries  around the sport facility.  Several examples include:

-The attack of San Francisco Giants’ fan Brian Stow in the Los Angeles Dodger’s parking lot after the opening day game in 2011.

-In November 2011, a Yale student lost control of his rented truck and ran over/killed a fan.

-In 2013 a Los Angeles Dodger’ fan was killed after attending a San Francisco Giants’ game

-In 2013 a fan was killed in the parking lot after a Kansas City Chief’s game with the Denver Broncos and several weeks later three Denver Bronco fans were stabbed in a parking space dispute

-In 2014 an Anaheim Angels fan was critically attacked after a playoff game in the parking lot.

-In 2014 a jury awarded Brian Stow approximately $13 million for his injuries.

These are the well-known incidents. There and numerous other incidents such as fights, petty crime, vandalism, automobile accidents, and related incidents, occur on regular basis. Such actions should be expected when there are close to 20,000 vehicles coming into and leaving a facility in a short time frame and it is impossible to police every person or vehicle.  This concern is doubled when people try to navigate their own way to a facility, often trying to find the quickest path to the facility, without knowing potential concerns.

I have handled numerous crowd management cases over the years from stadium stampedes to falling fans, fights, dram shop cases, and other crowd related issues. I have seen an uptick of parking lot cases over the past couple years.  I currently am an expert in one of the above mentioned cases.  Several years ago I handled a case where a plaintiff was leaving a concert during a rain storm and crossed a median outside of any crosswalks (which were over a ¼ mile away).  He fell to his death in a median gap.  All these cases have generated some key issues that need to be examined in these types of cases:

Has the facility undertaken an analysis of crime in the area, examined incidents both inside and outside the facility, and identified where hot spots are to properly deploy and mange risks?

What precautions were taken in advance from meeting with local police/fire/government officials to developing appropriate deployment charts for security/police before, during, and after the event?

Has the facility infrastructure been evaluated with an eye to proper lighting, traffic flow, line of site, camera angles, and even has CEPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) been applied to minimize trees or other items that might create hiding spots or allow activity to go unnoticed?

Are employees properly hired, trained, and supervised? This can include appropriate licensure (guard cards as an example), teaching dispute resolution such as conflict judo, reporting protocols, and support from upper levels within the organization.

Are fans properly educated as to the expected conduct and what will happen if they violate a fan code of conduct or engage in any inappropriate conduct both inside and outside the stadium/arena? The threat to lose season ticket purchasing privileges or to be forever barred from entering a facility can help serve as a major deterrent.

These represent just some of the concerns associated with handling a case involving fans, but these same principles can be applied to incidents with Black Friday sales, state fairs, firework shows, and countless other large events involving crowds.

About Professor Gil Fried

Gil Fried is a professor and department chair of the sport management department at the University of New Haven. He has been working as an expert witness in the sport field and crowd management area for over 20 years.  He has worked an equal number of cases for plaintiffs and defendants.