The director of a leading security firm has warned that a Premier League player could be the victim of a terrorist attack if clubs do not take the issue of safety more seriously in the wake of the bomb attack on Borussia Dortmund’s team bus.
Jesse Learoyd-Hill, who established Elite Security Professionals in 2014 and provides security for individual players and managers, wrote to almost every Premier League club at the start of last year urging them to allow his company to conduct audits of their existing plans to ensure they were prepared in case of a terrorist incident but received only one reply. He believes that is an example of the issue being largely ignored and has insisted clubs must reconsider their positions before it is too late.
“We have been warning people of this since the Bataclan attack in Paris [in November 2015] and yet clubs are still only just reacting,” Learoyd-Hill told the Guardian. “Too many players and clubs wait until something happens and, when it does, only then decide it’s time to react. Some clubs do have good security but the majority are just making plans after the events.
“There aren’t enough people available of the right experience for them to suddenly all get hired,” he added. “There have been so many aggravated assaults and burglaries at players’ homes in the last couple of years, which shows how much of a target they are.”
Despite the events in Dortmund on Tuesday, the Premier League has no plans to initiate extra security arrangements for this weekend’s fixtures because clubs are already at the highest level of alert, with all of them expected to liaise with local authorities over increased measures. German police continue to investigate a possible Islamic extremist link to the attack, with the midfielder Nuri Sahin admitting he remains haunted by his experience on the bus as team-mate Marc Bartra suffered a fractured wrist.
Learoyd-Hill, whose company employs former members of the SAS and other specialist military personnel, has since been contacted by one Premier League club wishing to discuss options and he insisted there is plenty more that can be done in advance to insure against future attacks.
“We’ve given them proper security advice and audits on their property. It’s done by guys with a way of thinking that is highly specialised,” he said.
“For example, you can have the team bus kitted out so it looks normal from the outside but it has blast-resistant windows and extra reinforcement features. I’ve also been speaking to another Premier League club about going in to deliver lectures to players of all ages just to make them more aware that they are at risk. On certain occasions they will need someone with them but of course they are human beings and at times they will want their privacy. But that’s not to say they can’t have someone in close proximity to them who they can call if they have a problem.
Learoyd-Hill added: “We suggest they do a course on basic security awareness such as knowing whether you are being followed and changing your routine regularly. We want to work with the clubs to ensure security isn’t just big people in black coats who just stand and open a barrier but they are actually a bit more aware of what’s around them.”
In response a Premier League spokesman said: “Updated security advice, including a reminder of the current ‘severe’ security threat level, has been issued by the appropriate statutory authorities to all Premier League clubs.”