Bob Davies spoke to our Safety Officer Lawrence Ellerby back in August and spoke to him about what it takes to get a game on at Montgomery Waters Meadow.
Getting the game on – Lawrence Ellerby
For most, visiting Montgomery Waters Meadow and watching the Shrews battle for three points at 3pm is usually a simple and easy process. However, prior to a turnstile opening, a pint being served, or a ball being kicked, checks, procedures and conditions with a number of authorities and bodies have to be met before Montgomery Waters Meadow can be opened to the Salopian family.
Behind the scenes in the back office, Town’s Safety Officer and Covid-19 Compliance Officer Lawrence Ellerby is at the heart of getting the game on – ensuring Town’s supporters can enjoy a safe and positive atmosphere come game-day. Formerly of Crewe Alexandra and the Edgbaston cricket ground, retired Fire Service member Lawrence is the man who brings it all together.
“To simply get the game on, we have to comply with the conditions on the general safety certificate which is issued by the local authority – that’s the most important thing. My primary role is making sure, for every matchday, those conditions are being complied with. We also have to be conscious of the guidance from the Sports Ground Safety Authority, as well as the EFL protocols regarding Covid-19. Things look like they’ve gone back to some form of normality, but we are still working under pretty strict protocols – especially around the players’ area and tunnel.
“Preparations for Saturday games begin two days before the fixture. Certain checks have to be done 48 hours before the game, 24 hours before the game, and on the morning of the event. Effectively, it’s a three-day process to actually get the game on. I liaise with the police beforehand and we risk categorise the game to determine what levels of policing and stewarding we need. That varies depending on who we are playing, the number of home fans, and the number of away fans.
“I arrange with West Midlands Ambulance service - who provide our medical cover - to ensure we have to have the right amount of personnel depending on the numbers. We have a paramedic for the players and a paramedic for the supporters. We also have a doctor for the players and a doctor for the supporters. All of these things have to be put in place when we stage a game or any event with spectators.”
But where did it all begin for Town’s Safety Officer? Formerly of the Fire Service, Lawrence spent a number of years climbing the ladder. Initially a casual steward, Lawrence is now responsible for the safety of Montgomery Waters Meadow, the staff, and the fans inside.
"Back in 1997, I started stewarding at Edgbaston because I like cricket. I was doing that in my spare time, doing as many games as I could. It progressed from there really, alongside my full-time job in the Fire Service. I started taking some spectator safety qualifications and did my NVQ Level Two and Level Three during that time.
"Eventually, I started doing other jobs at Edgbaston, and in the early 2000's I was working at Crewe Alexandra in similar roles. When I retired from the Fire Service in 2012, I was offered the full-time role as Deputy Safety Officer at Edgbaston. That meant I was the Safety Officer for all domestic games, as well as some international fixtures.
“For that, I had to complete my NVQ Level Four in Spectator Safety Management. Those qualifications are a requirement for all safety officers. I carried on doing that whilst working with Crewe and then eventually made the move to Shrewsbury in July 2017 - this is my fifth season with the club.
"Ultimately, my responsibility is to safely get all of our supports in the stadium to enjoy the game. Making sure people enjoy their day and leave safely is the aim. After the last two years, just having our fans back in has been the most rewarding thing. The stadium without the fans is just soulless and it just wasn’t the same."