In a further attempt to drive up standards, government watchdog the Security Industry Authority (SIA) is considering an extension of its Approved Contractors Scheme (ACS). The new measure would mean that, from April 2008, ACS suppliers could subcontract only to other ACS suppliers.
In principle this is a fine initiative that would bring consistency of service and transparency of operating procedures to every part of the industry. Additionally, it would provide a major incentive to the smaller security operators to sign up to the ACS standard. But to impose this so soon without consultation would fail to recognise the realities facing the crowd management industry and event organisers.
One short-term problem is the bottleneck in accredited companies, as operators work to acquire the new status. Of the 364 existing ACS suppliers, only 61 (or 17%) are approved for door supervision activities. If the SIA measure were imposed next April it would be all but impossible for ACS suppliers to meet the new standards. There simply aren't enough accredited door supervisors to meet peak demand.
The longer-term issue is related to seasonal fluctuations in the live entertainment industry. Month by month, business can vary in volume by 2,000%. At a time of high demand, ACS suppliers are likely to be in short supply.
Introducing the proposed measure at the wrong time will have a negative impact. ACS suppliers will not be able to resource contracts at peak times, contracts will become available to non-ACS suppliers, clients will experience a downturn in quality of service and there may be an increased risk to the public, with fewer professional or experienced companies taking on crowd management and crowd safety.
Happily, the SIA has agreed to meet the UK Crowd Management Association (UKCMA), which will urge that the measures be phased in. The SIA also needs to engage with non-ACS companies about joining the voluntary system.
The UKCMA thoroughly agrees with the long-term aims of this measure but believes that it needs to be introduced with the full input of the crowd management industry.