|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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