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What Do Stewards Actually Do?
Written by TimS on Tuesday, 20th Jan 2015 19:15

Have you ever spoken to a steward at a football match, or barged passed these marshals desperately trying to find your seat, or your place to stand? Stewards are the people who are dressed in shockingly bright and bulky clothes.

Most of them look as if they work out in the gym 24/7 doing ab crunches even in their sleep. A few stewards look like battered breakwaters at Felixstowe constantly buffered by the sea of fan abuse, winds screeching through the stand, and having to watch fans watching football that has often wildly varied like a tornado over the seasons. All stewards have to put up with a lot constantly trying to enforce the stadium rules to highly strung football fans.

I was not always sympathetic towards stewards and some other football fans are really unsympathetic. Last weekend, I was reading a football magazine letters page where a fan from Bradford complained about having a small can of deodorant and a plastic bottle confiscated.

I do not usually read people’s letters but after reading about the man from Bradford, I thought about a trip to watch Leicester City v Huddersfield in January 2009, where a police helicopter circled above the exit of the stadium expecting it all to 'kick off'. I also thought about a dreary 0-0 between Town and Wolves in March 2009, when I was ferociously glared at throughout the game, by a stressed-looking steward thinking that I would 'lose it' sometime during the 90 minutes and be carried out of the ground.

The Bradford man seemed utterly indignant about being stopped. His anger dripped through his words. This fan did not deal with a crucial question, about why he had brought a can of deodorant to the football match; does anyone bring health and beauty products to the football?

He was angry about missing the crucial early stages of a Bradford v Leeds derby. The Yorkshire anger continued to pour out of his letter. Stewards were seen as unnecessary meddlers fixated on confiscating the small items whilst the larger objects were let through. Those with weapons, which could cause actual damage, were apparently allowed in and weren’t caught by the men in fluorescent orange after throwing them. He had a point. Interfering stewarding can ruin the atmosphere at a game, but stewards have a very difficult job.

After my face-off with the Wolves steward in 2009, I wondered whether I was a victim of officious stewarding. I was trying to watch Town huff and puff on the cold March night. It was a desperate game played out in a desperate Molineux where the bright yellow railings make you feel that you are watching football in a NCP car park.

The atmosphere was as electric as a power failure at Wolverhampton railway station. Another ball went flying towards the stars, and I saw a youngish bloke sitting like an adult on a primary school chair. He seemed to be wearing three orange coats and was engaging in a stare competition waiting for a priceless moment when I would do anything to spend the night in Wolverhampton police station.

Officious stewarding can ruin a game. That night was ruined. It was also not much fun being followed up Waterloo Way in Leicester surrounded by Leicestershire Police with the insinuation that I was a football hooligan until proved otherwise. I was with a Huddersfield-supporting mate of mine. Leicester City v Huddersfield Town is hardly a game rivalling the Old Firm derby for potential viciousness.

We all know about the football’s reputation in the eighties where policeman and stewards were engaging in a world war battle to keep the warring sides apart. Apart from seeing stewards doing comic rugby tackles after pitch trespasses, you do not often see stewards, but from my experience, the officials at Portman Road are generally friendly, willing to engage in a bit of banter, and genuinely hoping that everyone has a good time at the football.

The letter from Bradford seems to regard stewards as petty health and safety freaks. A modern-day football match cannot take place without adequate stewarding.

I am currently seeing the life of a steward on the other side of the barrier. I fell into being a Pioneer at Saracens Rugby Club and I am enjoying the experience. Town have been trying a similar initiative with matchday ambassadors and a similar scheme was started at Bristol City.

Saracens and these football clubs have been building on the Olympics and the gamesmakers with members of the public around the ground to help spectators and answer any problems.

Back at Saracens, I get to see some top class rugby at Allianz Park in North-West London. The rugby atmosphere is different to the football atmosphere, with spectators getting involved in the action (as the recent Munster game at Saracens showed), but not to the point that the Metropolitan Police are called.

Now I am trying to complete a NVQ in Spectator Safety as requested by Saracens. It is only by doing this course do I realise what anyone with stewarding duties has to put up with, in addition to angry members of the public treating these marshals like irritating domestic servants.

The issues that need to be remembered in their duties seem never ending immense such as evacuation, what to do with a lost child, what to check when entering the stand. It is not just the case of a steward standing around showing off a fetching line in luminous clothing. Pioneers are not stewards but they are still important people around the stadium are not just collateral damage to pass over to the pitch.

Mr Angry from Bradford will probably continue to be angry about stewards, but I will have time for the people at the entrances to Portman Road and other football grounds. They may ask you to remove the top from your water bottle or take away your deodorant, but these people are just following rules. What do stewards do? They are a crucial cog to matchday operations.

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MedwayTractor added 19:33 - Jan 20
Great blog. My view is that the whole elf n safty business, of which stewarding is part, is driven by insurance companies. Their attitude seems to be one of imposing all these rules and the red tape so that their arses are covered if anything goes wrong - all to save having to pay out compensation. All this is driven by the "ambulance chasing" culture of shifty solicitors, working on a "no win, no fee" basis. If their fees were payable regaredless of the outcome of court cases, then the whole business, including our friends the telephone pests, would disappear overnight. We, the long-suffering public, should pester our MPs to change the law to make "no win no fee" agreements illegal. The ones at the sharp end, for example the stewards, have to take all the criticism, without being able to answer back for something which isn't their fault.

Rant over - I've got to go and answer the phone again, bet it's another telepest!

RegencyBlue added 20:08 - Jan 20
Fair Blog - what many people seem to forget is that the stewards are not making it up as they go along, they are following the instructions given to them by whichever club they work for.

For example trying to get fans in the SBR lower to sit down during a match is a pretty thankless task but the club are required to do it to comply with the terms of the safety certificate issued by the council.

salforduniblue added 20:23 - Jan 20
In the home end at Valley Parade, I've seen a man throw a live chicken in the air to celebrate a goal - namely the first in their 3-1 win over Aston Villa in the league cup semi final 2 years ago that was a sell out.

Frankly I don't think their stewards are strenuous enough

beano added 21:12 - Jan 20
Maybe one day they will stop the smoking in North Stand toilets

Kropotkin123 added 22:18 - Jan 20
Stewards are annoying if/when they try and get people to sit down. But I have never had an overtly bad experience, and I've always been helped out when asking for directions to my seat, etc at away games. They don't really feature in my thoughts about a game, tbh, which means they are doing a good job imo.

WickhamsLeftBoot added 00:25 - Jan 21
I've never had any issues or disagreements with stewards but during the 2004/05 season, there were a few times where I thought they were there for the sake of being there. Multiple times, there was a father and son who would repeatedly swear and shout abuse, bearing in mind I was sat in the lower south where plenty of families were sat, without having to stand up, I could quite easily count more than 15-20 children in the immediate area. Stewards were notified time and time again but nothing ever happened. There was a classic moment when it everyone went quiet, we must have conceded and they both bellowed out 'for f*** sake ref, you f****** c***' at this point, multiple people looked over to the steward expecting him to do something, but he just stood back so that it didn't look like he saw anything, and as for the head 'jobsworth' of a steward, he's just useless.

Furthermore, don't get me started on the stewards at Wembley. Sat in the Club Wembley section, two Man City fans and two United fans pretty much fighting, stewards done bugger all.

WickhamsLeftBoot added 01:07 - Jan 21
*were pretty much fighting

PortmanTerrorist added 11:13 - Jan 21
Confirm: stewards work to a plan and apply no common sense.

We are in the family stand and for an evening game where there were very many seats free around us, I allowed my son and his mate to sit on their own 2 rows ahead. I say sit, but given there are grown ups in our stand too they both usually stand throughout whole game but are still shorter than me being sat.....they are 9 after all.

So, they move 2 rows ahead, they stand as usual, there is no on in the 2 rows behind (except me 2 rows back) or in front of them, no one to their sides for 4 seats. However, the steward comes over and reprimands them for standing. To repeat.....THEY ARE 9 !

The folks behind and around me all had the same opinion that this was both ridiculous and unnecessary, and unlikely to encourage our next generation to come to FPR. Said steward is now derided amongst a portion of our stand for his inability to apply common sense and it is down to him and the seemingly inflexible rules.

Blue041273 added 12:01 - Jan 21
Stewards are now part and parcel of the game. They are not quasi policemen/women but they provide a sense of security. Their role is primarily to assist the public but they also have to ensure that the general safety of the spectators is preserved. Thus the need to ensure as far as possible that anything of a missile nature is prevented from getting anywhere near the playing area. Most fans will have no problem with the stewards. They meet and greet us smilingly but provide a low key deterrent against the wildest getting out of control. All clubs have a duty to ensure that their grounds are safe and IMO the stewards generally do a good job.

Ps the stewards at Millwall did a great job IMO; low key, friendly with a smile and a joke or two.

WindsorBlue added 19:07 - Jan 21
As a general rule, I don't have a problem. "Captain Beaky" can be a bit of a jobsworth in the Lower North, but has a bit of banter too. I HATE the ones who make the front rows sit down at away games. It has a horrible ripple effect, and can kill an atmosphere in about 30 seconds. Let us stand and sing! This also goes for home games, but it seems far better this season and I've not had to sit down once (Row J). If I were MM, I'd brief the stewards in the away section to have a zero tolerance on standing, and use it to our advantage!! You'll always get the odd jobsworth, who takes it really seriously, but I think most are there just to earn a few extra quid and watch the town!

Davesullivan65 added 20:05 - Jan 21
Well we love you fans,we are just trying to make your visit,safe and enjoyable,And Captain B ,And Rodders make it as enjoyable,within FA rules as they can

blrmy added 23:30 - Jan 21
Stumbled across this earlier when looking for a stream of the match. Skip the early bit of the video, and the football bit, the second half shows why I wouldn't want the job of a steward...


blrmy added 23:31 - Jan 21
^^ from about 7:00 in the video

ipswich134 added 09:21 - Jan 24
They make your visit to a stadium safe for godness sake.

yorksblue added 14:23 - Jan 24
I train and assess stewards nationwide. Standards do seem to vary from club to club, but one thing's for sure - without them, you don't have a game. Yes, our friends at the Dept for Culure, Media and Sport are responsible, along with local Safety Advisory Groups for most of the red tape they have to go thro'.
Let me know if you need any assistance with your NVQ. Good luck


Meadowlark added 17:26 - Jan 25
I disagree. At every match there are hundreds of these little hitlers. Most of them do nothing except sit staring at the crowd. Why are there so many? We never had them 30 years ago when we all stood up. Why do we need them in all-seater stadiums? I object to paying for them, to be honest. I know this will be controversial, and we're supposed to say "oh yes, they do a jolly good job" but in my opinion they're a complete waste of time, money and space. Just look stem all........what are they doing?

yorksblue added 11:46 - Jan 26

sticklegs added 08:18 - Jan 31
The lack of common sense is the main issue. A couple of seasons ago at the summer pre season family day I was sat with my two very young children watching the players 'train' on the main pitch. Took a few photos and then one of my son with Bluey. I was then surrounded by 3 stewards saying that I was unable to take photos. I explained that lots of others were, apparently the issue was I had a 'proper' camera they were using camera phones (many of which probably were capable of similar standard photos as mine!). I could understand it if I had a telephoto lense and it was a real match, but as it was supposed to be a pre- season PR exercise - I afraid it sums up the attitude of our club towards its fans in recent years.

IpswichT62OldBoy added 15:56 - Jan 26
I once attended a game atCambridge United, home to Wrexham, 3-0 up at half time.
As the whistle went there was a ruction in the away supporters section and three police officers lifted and carried a thrashing and angry steward, in full fluorescent kit, across the pitch before ejecting him from the ground.
It was reported in the following evenings paper that he was banned for life, it appears he was spat at so leaped into the Welshman belabouring any he could reach until police subdued him.
The match ended 3-3.
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