In less than three weeks the Rugby World Cup 2015 will launch at Twickenham.
Fans have been salivating for months at the prospect of the planet’s biggest and best teams convening on English soil, ready to pummel each other into the turf and showcase their skills to the world.
There are one or two, though, whose response to the impending carnival will have been rather less excitable, and rather more practical.
For the organisers of the world’s third biggest sporting event, the logistics are frightening in their layers and complexity.
Behind the scenes, thousands are mobilising to ensure the World Cup is hailed as a sporting triumph.
The glory will be directed elsewhere. Self-evidently though, without the structure and planning, the event would fall flat on its face.
Among those involved in this process are the people entrusted with ensuring that the event and everyone associated with it is safe.
Although not directly partnered with the World Cup itself, the national security company G4S will be using their expertise in stadia where they already have a presence.
As official stewarding partners of the Scottish Rugby Union, responsible for match day security, they have an extensive understanding of the challenges that need to be met.
“On any given match day at Murrayfield, for instance, we would have in excess of 500 staff on site,” explains Eric Alexander, managing director of G4S Events.
“Our service provision would include pre-match planning, co-ordinating with the emergency services, the safety advisors and risk managers. Our staff are present at the approaches to the stadium, car parks and turnstiles.
“They’re well-informed stewards who know exactly where everything is, and can help people navigate. We can be found in the hospitality venues, and we help control the crowds within the stadium. In the event of an emergency or an evacuation, it’s our job to get people out.”
G4S has extensive experience across a range of sports. Their operational skills are employed at a diverse number of events including music festivals, Wimbledon, golf’s Open Championship, Scottish and English football, county cricket, athletics meetings, horse racing and both codes of rugby.
“There are frequently upwards of 50,000 people at an event interfacing with my staff, my processes, my systems,” says Alexander.
“So we have to get it right. The bar areas can be a bit testing at times, but you need to understand the different audience profiles, and happily there’s no need for fan segregation at the rugby.”
Their partnership with the Scottish Rugby Union has led to one project of which Alexander is particularly proud. The Game On initiative is in its early stages, but young people aged 16-24 are being given a helping hand in developing social and professional skills, using rugby as a catalyst for their interest.
“Schools and rugby clubs are now getting involved,” enthuses Alexander, who is clearly thrilled to be a part of such a ground-breaking programme.
“These young people are identified: those who have perhaps fallen off the radar, or who might not have any role models in their life. They’re introduced to rugby, given some coaching and then supported as they are offered workshops with professional people who can upskill them.
“They’re taught language skills, CV writing and interview techniques, and the benefits of a healthy, positive lifestyle. The whole point is to prepare them for work.
“My personal desire is that G4S will eventually employ some of these people. They are overwhelmingly enthusiastic. They just need a chance.”