National Security Minister Gary Griffith, who had to intervene to help reduce chaos at the Queen’s Park Oval last Saturday, has highlighted some fundamental defects in how the authorities manage these events.
About 1,500 ticket holders had found themselves barred from entry to the Nagico Super50 cricket final after Fire Service officials decided that the stands had become overcrowded. But, having made this decision, these officials did not communicate with the growing and restive crowd, hence ironically creating danger to life and limb outside the venue. This was one of the fundamental problems observed by Minister Griffith, who noted that “there was no immediate communication between the relevant agencies.”
Apart from poor communication, Mr Griffith pointed to counter-productive strong-arm tactics and a lack of innovation from relevant personnel. These are deficiencies which plague not only event management, but management in general in Trinidad and Tobago.
Mr Griffith, whose professional training is in military and security matters, decided to step out of his crease and resolve the situation. And it was a good thing he did so, since none of the persons in charge hit upon the idea which eventually got the blocked patrons in—to use the empty space near the Greens. And, even so, Mr Griffith told the Express that he “had to speak personally to the head of security, including the Oval’s private security, the police, the Fire Service, the cricket’s management and so on, to get it done.”
Now why didn’t any of these officials think of this? Mr Griffith didn’t find a solution because he’s trained in crowd management. He hit upon a solution because he was looking for one. By contrast, the officials who had direct responsibility for managing the event were, instead, looking for ways to maintain “control” —that is, to make matters easy for themselves, with no regard for the paying customers.
This is typical. Insecure in authority, those with power often wield it with no thought of wider consequences, which was the attitude of the Fire Service officials who created the problem by barring paying patrons without regard for their rights, without proper checks, and without conferring with other officials. Indeed, in a later interview with the Express, Chief Fire Officer Nayer Rampersad shifted blame to the police, saying that safety was the Fire Service’s main concern and that police officers could have assisted in directing the crowd to other parts of the Oval.
This preferred response to problems is to constrain, rather than to open new avenues—an attitude displayed in literal terms last Saturday. Changing this mindset, however, is a good first step to solving many managerial issues that bedevil civic groups, business organisations and even political parties.