Serious concerns were raised about UEFA’s security department earlier this year when an English security expert with decades of experience quit his role as a consultant for European football’s governing body.
Steve Frosdick, originally a Metropolitan Police officer, has dedicated his career to stadium security in British and European football since the 1990s and has several advanced professional qualifications. He resigned from his UEFA consultancy in February, after 11 years during which he was employed to improve expertise, incident monitoring and development and training programmes.
He would have become very unhappy with the direction of the department led since last year by Zeljko Pavlica, a close friend of UEFA President Aleksandr Ceferin. Frosdick reportedly believed that UEFA’s professionalism, expertise and development were being undermined, and he rejected a proposal to revise his contract, which would have downgraded his role.
Frosdick’s resignation and criticism came less than four months before serious security concerns plagued UEFA’s two star end-of-season events: the Europa League final, where Rangers fans complained that there was no water in the heat of Sevilla, and the horrible chaos suffered by Liverpool. and Real Madrid supporters during the Champions League final in Paris.
The revelation of Frosdick’s departure will add to growing concerns over UEFA’s security operation and perceived cronyism in Pavlica’s appointment, which UEFA rejects. Liverpool supporters’ trust, Spirit of Shankly, which represents supporters who have suffered the excessive delays, police brutality and violent attacks in Paris but who have been formally charged by UEFA for the problems, has renewed its calls for a completely independent investigation.
The Safety and Security Department is responsible for the smooth running of UEFA matches, including finals, and plays a leading role in efforts to reinforce good security practices in European football. Pavlica, a former top security official in his native Slovenia, was appointed head of the department last year following the retirement in February 2021 of former department head for four years, Kenny Scott. A 30-year-old career officer with Strathclyde Police up to the rank of chief superintendent, Scott then served as head of security at Rangers from 2007 to 2010 and joined UEFA full-time in 2017.
Ceferin, a lawyer in Slovenia, and Pavlica, a former top security official for Janez Drnovsek when he was president of Yugoslavia and Slovenia, are said to be friends for decades. Ceferin was the best man for Pavlica’s 2018 wedding to Brigita, a former Olympian representing Slovenia. Shortly after Ceferin won the election to become president of the Slovenian Football Association in 2011, Pavlica got his first football job, working for the association as a safety and security officer.
UEFA denied cronyism in his promotion to head of its security department, pointing out that Pavlica moved from Slovenian national football to work for the European confederation in 2014. It was a part-time external role. Two months after Ceferin won the election to become UEFA president in September 2016, Pavlica was promoted to a permanent position at UEFA, as a security adviser.
A UEFA spokesman said Pavlica “is a highly respected name in the security industry” and in football, and “has an excellent safety and security record with the Slovenian national team and served UEFA very well for over eight years.” He was seen as the “natural successor” at the helm of the department, the spokesperson said, having worked alongside Scott, including in UEFA club and national team competitions.
The vacancy as Head of Department has not been advertised externally, and no comparative assessment has been made of Pavlica’s suitability for the very senior European security role. The spokesperson explained that UEFA can make direct appointments when there is ‘an obvious solution internally’, Pavlica’s promotion was part of ‘succession plans’ and external evaluations are not mandatory in the UEFA regulations.
Frosdick was extensively involved as a consultant in UEFA’s training and development programs and its incident monitoring system, which sought to draw detailed lessons from matches where security had been compromised and to improve best practices. He was reportedly asked to give a farewell presentation at a video meeting with UEFA colleagues on February 18 and offered criticism, including alleging a decline in professionalism. Frosdick declined to comment.
UEFA argues its expertise has improved since Pavlica’s appointment, has not been undermined, saying it has hired proven safety and security experts, continued its training programs despite the pandemic and is working to improve incident monitoring. However, the spokesperson confirmed that its stadium strategy and security programme, which had been running since 2017, had yet to be renewed since it ended last year. UEFA’s description of the 2017-21 programme, which is still on its website, said it “drives UEFA’s efforts to stay ahead of risks and incidents”.
Asked why the program was not currently running, the spokesperson said it had been impossible to implement a new strategy due to the pandemic: “The next edition of the program is currently under development. and subject to the approval of the UEFA Stadium and Security Committee at one of their forthcoming meetings.
Joe Blott, the chairman of Spirit of Shankly, underlined the demand for a fully independent investigation, amid questions, also posed directly by Liverpool, about the independence of the review announced by UEFA two days after the final . UEFA has appointed Portuguese politician Tiago Brandão Rodrigues as president, who has worked closely with former Portuguese Football Federation chief executive Tiago Craveiro, who is Ceferin’s senior adviser to UEFA.
“Liverpool fans have had horrific experiences in Paris, and we are outraged that UEFA immediately and wrongly blamed us,” Blott said. “It is now truly disturbing to hear about issues of cronyism, professionalism and culture within UEFA’s security service, and we need a fully independent investigation, including into UEFA itself. itself and its course of the matches.”
Asked about the events in Paris, in particular the seemingly negative perception of Liverpool supporters as pre-match spoilers, the UEFA spokesperson said: “Due to the ongoing independent investigation, UEFA will not comment or release any details on this for the time being.