HOME WORKERS: OPENING UP

Posted on: Sat 21 Sep 2013

On the day of weekend home games this season, the official Chelsea website is outlining different aspects of the matchday operation at Stamford Bridge away from the pitch, giving a flavour of the stadium in use for supporters who don't attend in person, or for those who do and are interested in the behind-the-scenes life.

A wide variety of activity takes place on site before, during and after each game, from ticketing to turnstiles, big screens to bars, pitch grooming to programme selling, but the natural place to begin is at the start, and the early-hours opening up of the ground.

Of course match preparation will have gone on across the site in the week before, but in terms of the day itself, readying Stamford Bridge for the arrival of the fans begins at 5.30am.

That is when checks begin that no new information has become available overnight from outside authorities or the police which might alter the running of the day.

'If there are any adjustments for briefing notes, those adjustments are made so the information we give our staff is accurate,' explains the club's matchday safety officer Jill Dawson, who carries out the process. Consultation also takes place with Chelsea's head of security Keith Overstall.

'I will then walk round the stadium when it is light to see if there are any last-minute items that need to be moved, repaired, replaced and to make sure the fabric of the stadium is as it should be,' she adds.

'In the control room I check the CCTV cameras are operating, with confirmation from the in-house security who have used them during the week. The emergency phones are checked, as is the turnstile counting system which is crucial to us knowing how many people are in and in which areas so that should anything go wrong we are in full knowledge of the facts.

'Monitors are also set up to log all the conversations between the safety staff in the control room and the stewards.'

The firing up of these systems takes until about 9.30am. At 10.30 ahead of a 3 o'clock kick-off, the senior stewarding staff will be briefed in the press room in the East Stand, yet to be opened to the media for the day.

Staff who man the hospitality areas arrive at 11.30 for their briefing with those areas opening for supporters at 12.30, and the stewards for the regular seating areas begin at 11.45, ready for the stadium to be open at 12.45.

For today's 5.30pm kick-off those times shift accordingly, with briefing of supervisors beginning at 1pm and the whole ground opened by 3.15.

'The other people I see first in the early morning are the catering chefs who come in to prepare, and the night shift and the day shift for the permanent security team changing over,' reports Dawson.

'The first fans you see from about 9 o'clock or earlier, depending on whether there are tickets at the box office, and the place starts to get a buzz about it from about 9.30. That is when you would become aware there is a game on, and visiting fans more than anyone are around. From 10.30 onwards, the atmosphere really builds.'

Twice in the last year stormy overnight weather has made it necessary for staff to stay in the hotel at the Bridge and begin very early inspections for damage and assessment of conditions, with the groundstaff gritting through the night when snow has fallen.

'I've been here 13 years and inherited staff who've been here a lot longer and whose knowledge of Chelsea is phenomenal, and it is a team operation,' says Dawson.

By turnstile opening time, 750 to 800 safety and stewarding staff are deployed and the systems are up and running to ensure the conditions set by the local authority are met.

The fans can then enter, and the main business of watching top-class football can begin.