Sports Team Travel Security

​​​Peter Tarlow, Ph.D
Jacques R. Island


As we were writing the final draft of this paper, news broke about the terrorism incidents in Paris. We also learned that Brussels was under security lockdown due to the threat of potential terror attacks. The first breaking news concerned the November 13 attacks at the Stade de France, France's largest sports stadium.  At the time of the attacks, a soccer match was occurring between the French and German national teams; the match was attended by the President of France, François Hollande. There were no deaths in the stadium that night, possibly because good security measures blocked the suicide bombers from entering the crowded 80,000-seat stadium; there was, however, much bloodshed just outside of the stadium and across the city.  The Paris attacks serve as backdrop for this paper and as a reminder of the importance of security at large sporting events.

It appears that the terrorists took the French authorities completely by surprise. Does this surprise attack indicate good planning on the part of the terrorist or failures on the part of the international security community—or both? Did the terrorist choose their targets for political or economic reasons? Was their goal economic destruction, to deliver a political warning to France to stay out of the Middle East, or merely murder for murder's sake? We may never fully know the answers to these questions.  

Despite the paucity of our knowledge, the Paris events still remind us that sporting events are first and foremost composed of living human beings.

Executive Summary

Sports Team Travel Security (STTS) provides visible and behind-the-scenes mobile security to traveling athletic teams participating in all levels of competitive sports, from amateur and collegiate teams in practice or competition to pro sports participating in major events such as the Olympic Games, World Cups, and Super Bowls. This report reviews and summarizes the existing STTS literature to meet five objectives:

  1. Identify the types of literature currently available, which we found to be focused on major special events, academic studies of the causes and effects of crime on the sports industry, the growing awareness of violence against athletes, and medical information for travelers;

  2. Review the current responses by public agencies and private security, to include the changing role of hotel security staff, training, coordination between public and private security organizations, lessons learned and best practices expressed by public safety  officials, the importance of planning, risk assessments, and media relations for successful crisis management;

  3. Synthesize the dispersed bits of relevant STTS wisdom into this report's suggested approaches, to which we add our STTS Group in Normal Mode of Operation model as a low-profile or stand-alone STTS operating alternative to the complex, major special events model;

  4. Offer two ways for measuring STTS activities, namely: its overall effectiveness over time, and the effectiveness of a single event; and,

  5. Identify future research needs, with the following issues being worthy of mention as understudied and in need of primary research: a growing problem of violence against athletes, especially female athletes; the kinds of security training needed for STTS personnel; a better definition of the functions and conduct of an STTS event; and better models, templates and tools based on primary research for STTS managers and practitioners.

Next: Definitions, Scope and Purpose​​

Download the full report​. ​