Stakeholders' Perceptions of Security Risks and Emergency Preparedness in the Live Events Industry

  • Sean Spence

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


In contemporary modern society, live events are increasingly becoming important economic drivers for urban development and providing entertainment and cultural rewards. For example, music festivals and large-scale urban events provide young people with discretionary disposable income to seek out youthful expression in the form of risk-taking behaviour within these carnivalesque spaces. These behaviours include excessive drinking, illicit drug usage, overcrowding, and physical and sexual violence, which all pose security risks. To date, little research has been conducted on the usage or effectiveness of security risk management practices within the live events industry. This research seeks to understand to i) what extent security risks, in general, exist at these live events; and ii) how prepared stakeholders are to mitigate such risks. It also seeks to understand how stakeholders perceive security risks and their opinions of other stakeholders' preparedness in addressing such risks. Methodologically, this research used a mixed methods approach across three separate studies involving the analysis of various data, including surveys, content analysis, and field observations. The pragmatic research paradigm was the philosophical foundation that guided these studies.
While the respondents to the various surveys spanned several continents, the research focuses on understanding Canada’s level of preparedness to address security risks within the live events sector. A survey of practitioners within the live events industry revealed that they perceived the industry as a whole to have low levels of security risk management maturity. Thus, many inherent risks are left unmitigated. The respondents viewed man-made threats as the most likely type of security incident to impact events. A longitudinal case study of a large music festival in Canada demonstrated the existence of multiple sources of risk that caused injury and disruption to festival operations. Key stakeholders at this festival were shown to have underestimated most of

the documented risks that occurred. An analysis between Canadian and Australian municipalities revealed that public officials in Canada have a statistically higher tolerance for accepting risks when approving public events than compared to Australian officials. This finding is all the more noteworthy, considering that Canada has more security risks within its live events industry than Australia. A positive correlation was also found between the level of risk tolerance in regulating live events and the population size of Canadian municipalities. This suggests that larger cities are more risk-averse than smaller ones.
The three chapters' findings apply across the event typology system (e.g., sporting, cultural, religious, business events, etc.) and many jurisdictions outside Canada. This research makes an original and important contribution to the body of knowledge within the event management discipline. It reveals that many unmitigated security risks exist within the industry, and improvements are needed in how event organisers and municipal regulators manage these risks to ensure public safety and the long-term sustainability of events. Lastly, key recommendations are made to elevate the security risk management posture of live events, including creating both industry-specific training for security guards and an enterprise risk management model for event practitioners. The impacts of social media and climate change are provided as suggested for future research topics as they have the potential to influence risk management processes and related behaviours of event stakeholders.
Date of Award5 Jul 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorMoufida Sadok (Supervisor) & John Akerele (Supervisor)

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