Event Management

Years-Long Campaign to Protect UK Events from Terrorism Leads to New Laws

Skift Take

The UK is moving forward with its Protect Duty legislation, a new set of rules requiring venues to assess and address the risk of terrorist attacks. What will these changes mean for the UK’s event industry?

In 2017, Figen Murray’s son, Martyn Hett, was killed in the Manchester (UK) Arena Terrorist attack. Tragically, 22 people lost their lives and over 1,000 people were injured. Murray has channeled her grief into campaigning for a law in her son’s name, ‘Martyn’s Law’ (Protect Duty) to ensure that public spaces and venues put the safety and security of the public first.

One of the key propositions of the Protect Duty legislation is that it will require venues to have terrorism risk assessments in place to operate.


Venue Vulnerability

While legislation is in place for Health and Safety requirements at conference venues, there is currently no requirement for venues to act on advice from counter-terrorism officers. This is the gap that Protect Duty would fill. Venues would become legally responsible for their terrorism protocols, and compliance could raise significant issues for their management teams.

To shed light on the scope of these new expectations, the International Convention Centre Wales (ICC Wales) recently released a study titled Protect Duty Report. In the report, Gary Jones, lead assessor for UK Police Counter Terrorism Security Coordinator Training, points out that venues need to develop a complete picture of their vulnerabilities before they can put mitigation measures in place.

To this end, he believes that venues need to consider just how vulnerable they are, which types of attack they are vulnerable to, and the fundamental issues of why, when, where, who, and how. Answering these questions will help venues put measures in place.

Under Protect Duty, the UK Home Office estimates that 650,000 businesses could be affected.


The Role of Event Planners in Terror Attack Assessments

Event planners strive to deliver great experiences. Anything that gets in the way of that could be unwelcome, but the safety of delegates is a vital concern.

Planners will need to work with venues if events are to be secure from terrorist attacks. And they will need to know where their responsibilities begin and end. The ICC survey (part of ICC Report) revealed that 94 percent of conference organizers want to know their responsibilities and 86 percent want to understand venue responsibilities.

Beyond coordinating with venues, planners will also need to work in conjunction with other owners of “publicly accessible locations” (PALs). This includes shopping complexes, parks, and public thoroughfares. As a consequence, devising city-center treasure hunts and fun runs will take on new complexity.

Across all types of events, time spent arranging risk assessments will increase. Finding an accredited specialist provider of counter-terrorism services will also need to be on the “to do” list for organizers. Business may recall the sudden abundance of (questionably) qualified GDPR advisors a few years ago. We are likely to see a similar scenario of “terrorism advisors” cropping up in large numbers with this legislation.


Who Pays?

When legislation is enacted, the effort to comply with new requirements will inevitably lead to costs that will have to be covered one way or another. This issue is a hot topic for discussion and will be for some time, not only around the question of how a compliance framework (inspectorate) would be established but also in terms of who will pay for it.

In the ICC survey, 82 percent of respondents want an agreed-upon joint security plan for their event and believe that a partnership approach is the best way. When respondents were asked who should foot the bill, the highest share of votes (38 percent) were in favor of venues and organizers sharing the costs for the funding of potential additional security measures.

When it came to the question of whether to implement an inspectorate, there was an even split of opinion in the government consultation survey. Among the 385 responses, 194 were for and 191 were against instituting an inspectorate.

There is more discussion to be had, but additional expenses for planners, venues, and government are likely. After all, training costs money, and a compliance framework, in whatever form it takes, needs resourcing.


Resources and the Role of Associations

Given the logistical and financial weight of these requirements, it makes sense for event associations and other big players to work together to help the sector. For starters, more data is clearly needed, although some work has already begun. In 2021, the UK government went through a consultation process via a public survey, with 2755 people responding. And in April 2021, the Association of Event Venues (AEV) instituted a joint session with the National Arena Association (NAA) to coordinate venue responses. In addition, the AEV is exploring a collaborative stance with other associations to align their knowledge bases.

Access to useful, up-to-date, and helpful information in one place will be essential to the success of this initiative. One of the government survey’s questions related to the idea of a single digital service where people could access advice and training: Among the 1,083 who responded to the question, almost three-quarters (74 percent) reported that they would want this kind of service. And 73 percent said that a risk management template was high on their priority list.

Presently, free information can be accessed across these websites:

1. ACT Awareness eLearning

2. Guidance on working with counter terrorism security advisers

3. National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO)

4. Government response document

Additionally, the ICC report referenced earlier is available online. It provides an in-depth analysis of the UK Government’s proposed legislation and the potential impact on the event sector.


The UK Difference

It will be interesting to see what impact the new legislation has. It could be followed in other jurisdictions, but when and where that may happen will likely depend on how well it’s perceived.

Currently, planners in the U.S. can speak to protective security advisors and engage with various levels of government and the private sector for support and guidance. For events, these security advisors are often automatically part of the planning process when an event is deemed to be significant. The Super Bowl, for example, would include these kinds of security concerns in the planning process.

Delegates expect safety as a priority at any event. While it could be argued that the added logistical hurdles of the Protect Duty legislation (Martyn’s Law) create a barrier to hosting events, could these high security standards equally be an incentive for events to come to the UK.?

Tracy Halliwell, director of tourism, conventions and major events for London takes this view: “Anything that is going to legislate a series of measures that will ultimately make our venues safer has got to be a good thing.” Since the UK. is already perceived to be a “safe” business destination, this legislation should only add to that reputation. It will show that the UK is constantly reviewing procedures in the face of new potential threats and issues.



The hope is that new requirements will not have a severe impact on business outcomes. What is clear is that more awareness is needed, with just 52 percent of the ICC survey respondents being aware of requirements. But the government response has only recently been published and hence everything is in its infancy.

This is a moving target; there’s still uncertainty over when it will be finalized, where it will end up, or what the actual implications of it will be. However, event-related businesses need to be aware that this issue is unlikely to spontaneously disappear. We will need to be ready.