Serious concerns were raised about Uefa’s security and safety department earlier this year, when an English security expert with decades of experience left his role as a consultant for the European football board.
Steve Frosdick, originally a Metropolitan police officer, has dedicated his career to stadium safety in British and European football since the 1990s and has multiple advanced professional qualifications. He resigned from his Uefa advisory office in February, after 11 years in which he was hired to improve its expertise, event monitoring, and development and training programs.
He reportedly became seriously unhappy with the direction of the department, which since last year has been headed by Zeljko Pavlica, a close friend of Uefa president Aleksandr Ceferin. Frosdick reportedly believed that Uefa’s professionalism, expertise and development had been undermined, and he rejected a proposal to revise his contract, which downplayed his role.
Frosdick’s resignation and criticism came less than four months before major security concerns hit Uefa’s two high-season highlights: the Europa League finalwhere Rangers fans complained that there was no water in the heat of Seville, and the terrible chaos suffered by Liverpool and Real Madrid supporters at the Final of the Champions League in Paris.
The revelation of Frosdick’s departure will add to growing concerns about Uefa’s security operation, and a perceived friendship in Pavlica’s appointment, which Uefa rejects. The confidence of Liverpool supporters Spirit of Shanklywhich represents fans who have suffered the excessive delays, police brutality and violent attacks in Paris were still officially blamed by Uefa for the problems, renewed their demands for a fully independent investigation.
The safety and security department is responsible for the safe running of Uefa matches including the final, and has a leading role in efforts to strengthen good safety practices across European football. Pavlica, a former top security official in his native Slovenia, was appointed to head the department last year after the February 2021 retirement of four-year-old former head of department Kenny Scott. A 30-year career officer with Strathclyde police up to the rank of chief inspector, Scott was then 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 senior security officer for Janez Drnovsek when he was president of Yugoslavia and Slovenia, have been friends for decades. Ceferin was the best man at Pavlica’s wedding in 2018 with Brigita, a former Olympic athlete representing Slovenia. Shortly after Ceferin won the election to become president of the Slovenian Football Association in 2011, Pavlica was given his first job in football, working for the association as a security and safety officer.
Uefa denied friendship in its promotion to head its security and safety department, stressing that Pavlica had stepped from Slovenian national football to work for the pan-European confederation in 2014. That was an external, part-time role. Two months later Ceferin won the election to become Uefa president in September 2016, Pavlica was promoted to a permanent role at Uefa, as a security adviser.
A Uefa spokesman said Pavlica “is a respected name in the security business” and in football, and “has had excellent safety and security with the Slovenian national team and has served Uefa very well for over eight years”. He was considered the “natural successor” to head the department, the spokesman said, working alongside Scott, including on the club’s competitions and Uefa’s national teams.
The vacancy of the head of department was not externally announced, nor was a comparative assessment made of Pavlica’s suitability for the very senior European security role. The spokesman explained that Uefa can make direct appointments when there is an “obvious solution internally” that Pavlica’s promotion was part of “success plans” and external evaluations are not mandatory in Uefa’s regulations.
Frosdick was heavily involved as a consultant in the training and development programs of Uefa and its event monitoring system, which sought to learn detailed lessons from matches where safety was put at risk and to improve best practice. It is understood he was invited to make a farewell presentation at a video meeting with Uefa colleagues on February 18, and reportedly outlined criticisms, including claiming a decline in professionalism. Frosdick declined to comment.
Uefa argues that its expertise has improved since Pavlica’s appointment, has not been undermined, saying it has hired proven security and safety experts, continued with training programs despite the pandemic and is working to improve incident monitoring. However, the spokesman confirmed that its stadium and security strategy program, which has been in operation since 2017, has not been renewed since it ended last year. Uefa’s description of the 2017–21 program, which is still on its websitestated that it “drives Uefa’s efforts to keep up with the risks and events”.
Asked why the program is not working at the moment, the spokesman said it was impossible to implement a new strategy due to the pandemic: ” upcoming meetings. “
Joe Blott, President of Shankly Spirit, emphasized the need for a fully independent inquiry, among other questions. asked directly from Liverpool, on the independence of the Uefa review announced two days after the final. Uefa has appointed Portuguese politician Tiago Brandão Rodrigues as president, who has worked closely with Tiago Craveiro, a former leader of the Portuguese Football Federation who is a senior adviser to Ceferin at Uefa.
“Liverpool supporters have had terrible experiences in Paris, and we are outraged that Uefa immediately, falsely blamed us,” Blott said. “Now it’s really annoying to find out about issues of friendship, professionalism and culture in Uefa’s security department, and we need a fully independent investigation, including Uefa itself and its operation of matches.”
Asked about the events in Paris, specifically the seemingly negative perception of Liverpool supporters as problems before the match, the Uefa spokesman said: “Due to the ongoing independent investigation, Uefa will not comment or reveal any details of the matter for . time. “