‘If we use our fists, then we’ve failed’ – careers in security

Matty Blythe played Rugby League for Warrington Wolves, Bradford Bulls, Leigh Centurions (now Leopards) and Rochdale Hornets. He is now an operative with Vanquish Group and works all over the world, including working with musicians (like Stormzy), celebrities, ultra-high net worth individuals and sports personnel. You can find out more about careers in security here and you can follow Matty on Twitter to see some of his experiences.

I’ve always been interested in the security industry. My rugby league career was a dream come true, but when I decided to retire at 27, I was immediately drawn to building a second career in security. I was getting to the back end of my time in rugby – I think every sportsperson gets into a bit of a lull and wonders whether to carry on or retire. I spent about 6-7 months not really enjoying it and I was also scheduled for surgery, so my shoulder was dislocating in virtually every game I played. There was politics at the club and I’d lost the smile on my face. It was time to change.

Warrington gave me some money to spend on education to support my transition out of sport, and two weeks later I got onto a 21-day course in Manchester with Vanquish Security training academy. I loved it!

I thought, I’ll be standing there with someone ticking boxes; but it’s not like that at all. There’s a lot about understanding current legislation, knowing how to plan and prepare, working as a Close Protection Officer (CPO), and technical surveillance countermeasures. In sport people see you on television for 80 minutes at the weekend, but they don’t the work you’ve put in that week. It’s the same in security. We need to risk manage, threat manage, we need to plan and prepare. Nobody sees that, clients/principals don’t see that. And I like that!

It’s up to us how much work and attention to detail we put in to prepare for an operation, and that determines whether the outcome is successful or not when we’re with the client. I love that aspect of it – it gives me goosebumps and adrenaline. Each and every time.

Not long after completing the course, I went to Iraq for two years working with bomb disposal experts. It was part of an American contract and we had clients that were there to take out IEDS and make them safe. That was a huge eye-opener about hostile environment security, which I really enjoyed.

Recently I’ve done a lot of music tours lately which has been great fun. It’s been so varied. I can’t talk about some of the people I’ve worked with because of client confidentiality, but for example this week it’s different again: I’m with an executive client and our schedule is packed with some really interesting commitments. It’s also a career in which you can earn good money.

It’s so varied, and also there are so many parallels to match days in sport in that the outcome is determined by how much work you put in, during the run up to the operation itself.

In rugby, you’re watching videos of the opposition, analysing their threats and weaknesses. In security it’s all about the planning and preparation. Route reconnaissance, reconnaissance on the building or the venue we’re going to, planning for the timings of the day itself; there’s a lot of planning that goes into a 4-5 hour task.

I’m working London for the next two weeks, and the planning and prep is detailed to the extreme! But if you plan correctly, then by the time you get to ‘game day’, you’re prepared. All you need to do is switch on. That’s it.

Our best outcome is that we feel slightly bored on the day itself – that we’ve all got home safe and that’s the end goal. We debrief every day, critique what we’ve done and how we can improve. We debrief so we’re ready to go again the next day. We all need to receive criticism and find out how we can improve.

We work in really close teams of multiple roles. There are probably 6-7 different roles. There’s a medic, a search advance party, a personal escort team, driver, intelligence officer, main Personal Protection Officer, and you’ve got your team leader.

Everyone knows their specific job and what they’ve got to do. And we all bring it together under pressure, in an operational brief.

Sometimes you might be in a team but sometimes you’re on your own doing it, depending on the operation, client and budget. There are so many different types of security, mission or operation.

People might think this is just a job for blokes, but actually women are really in demand – and the women that I’ve met in this industry are really, really good. The women make more money than the men and there aren’t enough of them.

It’s far less common, and I know a lot of female security operatives who work with Middle Eastern female clients, who can’t have men guarding them. They can only have women. I have my own company doing security for festivals, and we have a number of women security operatives who if they told you to take the bins out, they’re already out!

There’s a massive demand for women but it’s currently 90%+ men. CPOs are predominantly men, but I’ve worked with plenty of amazing women who are really good at their jobs. It’s definitely open to women as a career route – they’re massively in demand. And all the women I’ve worked with have been incredibly good and they adapt to their environment very rapidly. It’s a big niche but there aren’t enough women doing it.

You might think careers in security is based on physical confrontations, but that hardly ever happens.

If we have to use our hands, we’ve done our job badly.