Updated: Apr 13, 2018
Some of you know that from time to time I frequent a certain South London football stadium. I'm not always sure why as the experience does not often do much for my emotional well-being. January 13th 2018 was the last time I came away reasonably happy.
Near to where my son and I sit, and just down on the side of the pitch there is often a steward who is identifiable by his blue hi-vis jacket, standing out from the usual yellow or orange clad stewarding team. On his back the letters spell out his role -SAFEGUADING STEWARD. Of course this always catches my eye and I wonder what the job involves and how he got selected for it. Dressed in yellow, he used to meet and greet us at the top of the stairway leading to our seats, and so becoming the safeguarding steward may be a promotion. I don't really know. In his former role he would seek to shake the hand of all the supporters who passed him and make the general enquiry 'you alright?' We always said yes but I wonder if in his new role if we said 'er, no, not really' he might pause and ask us why not.
In an idle moment - and there are a few in any game - I try to imagine how blue jacket might operate on match days. Is he trained to look out for incidents that might significantly impact on the well-being of children or vulnerable adults? Does he have a protective role towards the ball-boys who collect the ball when it goes out of play? I've witnessed two occasions where ball-boys have been harangued by visiting managers for their over-promptness or delay in returning the ball to players depending on how the match is going.
If next time he passes nearby within speaking distance, I think I'll ask him about his blue jacketed role. It's reassuring that the football club has invested in someone with a public match day safeguarding profile, but I'd still like to know more.
But I think if he was standing in his old place when we leave at the end of a disappointing game I'd quite like him to shake my hand, ask me if I'm alright before setting off for home, and I could reply 'er, no not really - but thanks for asking. I think I'll get over it!' However as Bill Shankly that famous Liverpool manager in the 1960's once observed 'Some people think that football is a matter of life or death - it's far more serious than that'.