Safety and Security is paramount at any event, but when Royalty and VVIPs are in attendance, the pressure is really on. This was the case when the world’s most valuable horserace, the $20 million Saudi Cup, was staged at the King Abdulaziz racecourse in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. International Venue Management (IVM) was appointed just months before the two-day extravaganza to work across a number of disciplines, ensuring the safe and secure delivery of the hugely successful event. 

IVM’s Security Associate Steven Coleman is an industry recognised event safety, crowd management and security specialist with over 15 years’ experience in planning and delivering some of the UK’s largest sporting events, including the Aintree Grand National. He also has experience working in Saudi Arabia on the Anthony Joshua fight and Formula E. Coleman explained how IVM adapted to the unique challenges of managing the safety and security for the Saudi Cup event and how the initial role expanded over time.

Steve Coleman takes charge of the paddock on Saudi Cup Day

Coleman said: “The initial engagement was just before Christmas and we started on site on January 5 as security associate for IVM to look at the wider security plan for the Saudi Cup. As the role developed, we took on the accreditation, overseeing the event safety side, all the command and control, the safety officer role, the safety sign off of all the structures, and widened the security team. We initially started off with just myself, but then we created zones within the footprint of the course so we had one of my security managers in each of the areas. We put a security plan together, the crowd management plans together, all the documentation, fire plans, major contingency plans and all from a UK standard point of view.” 

Coleman said IVM worked closely with the International Racing Bureau and Clerk of the Course Michael Prosser, to make sure that the club’s documentation and processing procedures were up to the international standards expected, both from an equine side as well as from a public side. “In short, we took over the accreditation, the security, the medical side, safety and all the crowd management,” he added.

IVM was responsible for crowd management

He said there were challenges through the planning stages but that he worked closely with Saudi governmental agencies. “The key stakeholder groups for me were the National Guard who are the custodians of the site, the Royal Guard because of the VVIPs that were attending, civil defence because they do all the safety sign-offs and obviously provide all the firefighting at the event time, and then local police. We had challenges trying to pull them all together and work off the same hymn sheet.

“I’ve got a core team of nine security managers that we deploy all over who are all very experienced. They’re all ex-military, all very experienced in events and all trained to international standards. Then I have a wide-ranging team of event safety people, health and safety people, control room specialists. I’ve got a team of about 45. We seemed to gel in well with the IVM team. It’s a very experienced team that IVM have got. It’s been a really good experience.”