NCS4 develops certification for sports venues

Magic Johnson backs effort to ensure safety of fans, players
Monday, December 17, 2012

HATTIESBURG, Miss.—The National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security at the University of Southern Mississippi is now offering a certification program for sports venues.

The Sports Event Security Aware, or SESA, designation can be awarded to single spectator sport venues or multiple arenas or stadiums that fall under an organization’s auspices. Those backing the initiative include the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Nascar, U.S. Olympic Committee, Division 1 College Sports and a number of other professional leagues and amateur organizations, including high school sports.

The idea of sports venue security certification is not new, said Louis Marciano, director of NCS4, which is a leader in addressing potential threats and risks to the safety and security of sporting events.

“We’ve been modeling this since 2006. We knew that we needed some type of certification for venue management teams and personnel. We’ve done eight facilities already,” Marciano told Security Director News. Now, however, “there seems to be more energy within the field,” he said.

It doesn’t hurt that former NBA superstar Earvin “Magic” Johnson has signed on as the initiative’s honorary chairman. Johnson, an owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is currently working with NCS4 on SESA certification for Dodger Stadium.

“Magic is engaged now,” Marciano said. “He’s had issues in regard to security. He understands the issues of modern-day security at venues.”
The Dodger Stadium parking lot was the scene of a brutal beating that left a San Francisco Giants fan brain-damaged in 2011. Security was increased following that event.

"I am pleased to have a hand in leading this critical effort to establish and raise the certification levels for personnel and venue operations that are responsible for hosting sports events and standards," Johnson said in a prepared statement. "Threats such as crime, possible terrorist acts and weather-related incidents must be addressed through comprehensive planning followed by the implementation of a solid security management program. The NCS4 program aims to do just that."

NCS4’s certification efforts include working with eVerifile, which specializes in workforce risk management solutions. Johnson is an investor in the Atlanta-based company.

Mark Wilson, eVerifile chief executive officer, told Security Director News that after he and others bought the company early this year, they saw that there was a “void and a need” for vendor and contractor screening at sports venues. If you’re taking your family to a professional football game, he said, you don’t want to come in contact with a dangerous person.

“NCS4 has a holistic approach, and we provide one aspect of that—screening,” Wilson said.

"As a society, we need to elevate the importance of knowing who is staffing the venues, organizations and communities that touch America's families, be it full-time staff, temporary workers or volunteers," he said.

“With Magic Johnson's involvement and the participation of the leagues, we can, first and foremost, secure our venues and set the tone for other organizations to follow suit," Wilson said.

SESA certification provides a professional benchmark with which to measure a facility’s safety, security and incident management systems. It entails, including the employee background checks, numerous and wide-ranging requirements such as security of utility areas, adequate facility lighting, lockdown procedures, photo credentials for game-day staff, secure delivery times for vendors and mutual aid agreements with local law enforcement agencies. It also includes designating a security director for the facility.

Once certified according to “best practices and lessons learned,” a “continuous improvement program” ensures that the venue is keeping up on the latest security measures and technology, Marciano said.

Some venues have security and safety plans in place, “others have been on the shelf for years. We’ve seen everything,” he said. “This will create standards, a mechanism to secure consistency so that as spectators you can expect the same level of security whether you’re at a Giants game or a Red Sox game.”

He said he hopes that SESA certification will become the norm in five or six years.