Calling all Swifties – apply some educated crowd safety tips from a mass event expert

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Melbourne audiences have already experienced the extravagant Eras tour first-hand, but with Taylor Swift’s Sydney shows scheduled for the coming days, mass event crowd management expert Dr Sean Peckover reminds attendees that the big crowds expected can create some big challenges.

At Victoria’s Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, the singer seemed overwhelmed by the news that she was playing to her biggest crowds ever, with around 96,000 singing along to their favourite hits.

For the audiences themselves, that number of people can be more than overwhelming – it can be potentially dangerous.

The Central Queensland University (CQU) crowd safety expert is warning attendees at the upcoming concerts to be prepared for connectivity issues, exit ‘pinch points’, and price-hike shocks. With a bit of planning, though, he says Swifties can ensure a safe and fun night.

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Dr Peckover is CQU’s Associate Director Safety and Well-being, and his recent PhD investigated best practice for managing congestion at mass running events.

What you do before leaving home can make a positive difference

He says preparation begins with packing.

“Fans should re-read over what can and can’t be taken into the stadiums – I recently saw Ed Sheeran at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, and people were being turned away with things like big bags, cameras and food, and many had to throw items away to be allowed in,” he says.

Eras Tour promoter Frontier Touring last week released the list of reminders and rules ahead of the seven-night Australian tour.

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Using public transport and arriving with plenty of time will also help smooth entry, Dr Peckover says.

He advises Swifties to ensure tickets are pre-downloaded in case of WiFi or phone coverage issues – and says fans shouldn’t rely on phones for finding each other, either.

“That many people in one place can have an impact on the networks and mean coverage drops out, so if you’re splitting up for pre-concert activities like buying food and merch, make sure you notice landmarks and have a designated spot to meet again,” he says.

Think about others

Thoughtful behaviour, especially for smaller members of the crowd, is also advised.

“At all major events there is a risk of crowding-related incidents, so avoid running on stairways where there is a potential for tripping, and try to use the handrail,” Dr Peckover says.

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“If someone does trip and fall, clear space and help them immediately – risk of injury to everyone increases where crowds are unstable and persons are pushing, shoving and falling.”

Dr Peckover says it’s the end of the concert that can create the biggest crowding risk, with the sense of urgency to find the quickest way home often driving people to unsafe actions.

“I’ve attended mass crowd events including NFL, NBA, NHL, State of Origins, Grand Finals, and mega concerts and festivals in the USA, and the safest approach is to simply wait 10-20 minutes in the stadium, until the largest volume of people have exited,” he says.

“Then make your way to the public transport, knowing it’s the first few trains out of the station that have everyone tightly packed and pushing to get off the platform onto the train.”

Patience is a virtue – and can help crowds stay safe

Waiting, says Dr Peckover, will result in less crowd density at the station and more likelihood securing a seat to rest those dancing shoes.

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“If you plan to use ride-sharing services, be prepared for long waits and price surges – I was at a New York Jets game, coincidently while Taylor Swift was there too, and an Uber back to New York was $US380, while the train was $11 return.

“Taylor Swift’s concerts are renowned for positive, respective and safe behaviours,” Dr Peckover says.

“Taking a few additional steps will ensure your night is a positive one.”

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]