Chris Plimley says a considered mixture of physical, electronic and human security, coupled with intelligence and vigilance, is the best approach to event security post-Paris.
Security was ramped up at football stadia the world over following the Paris attacks. The Stade de France was targeted in six coordinated attacks on the French capital on 13 November that killed 130.
Four days later, a football friendly between Germany and Holland at the HDI Arena in Hanover was cancelled just two hours before kick-off after police received ‘concrete information about a terror attack in the stadium.
On the same night, England and France’s fans sang La Marsellaise in unison – among them FA president and second in line to the throne Prince William – as football stood in solidarity at the international friendly amid the unusual sight of armed police Wembley Stadium.
The British government had announced it would intensify security at events in major cities and UK borders in the wake of the attacks – as the Metropolitan Police revealed there were 600 active counter-terror investigations in the UK.
Prime Minister David Cameron responded to the escalation in terror attacks worldwide by making 1,900 extra security and intelligence staff provisions and doubling funds for aviation security.
In the biggest increase in British security spending since the 7/7 bombings in London, the new funding will be invested in the security and intelligence agencies to provide 1,900 new officers – an increase of 15% – at MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
Security at Premier League matches was stepped up in the aftermath. However, surprise package Leicester City has stuck with its beefed-up security measures, which include ‘enhanced searches’ for fans entering the stadium, and no readmission, which means people cannot go out to smoke.
The clampdown applies at mass public gatherings beyond football, for instance, at music gigs across the UK and Europe. U2, Foo Fighters, Years & Years and Rudimental were cancelled following the 89 deaths at the Bataclan theatre Eagles of Death Metal gig in Paris.
And American Football enhanced security too, even though it was aware of no known threats and all NFL clubs ordinarily employ mandatory metal detector screening and multiple layers of perimeter security external to stadia to safeguard fans and the stadium from explosive threats.
How long the enhanced security will prevail remains open to question – and it seems at odds with FIFA and UEFA’s key principles to make football safe, secure and welcoming, which it states requires security to be ‘effective but discrete.
The truth is that the more visible and imposing security is made, the more it will strike fear into the hearts of true fans and frighten them away.
The solution remains in key physical, electronic and human security measures coupled with intelligence and vigilance on both security personnel and fans.
Physical measures include an outer security perimeter, secure access control systems – with turnstiles, ticket checking and counting – an integrated control room for both police and stadium managers covering the entire stadium environment and robust public address systems and emergency power in the event of an incident.
Screening and ticket control linked to intelligence on suspected terrorists and known hooligans along with intelligent CCTV are among the electronic security measures, for example, sending an image of a suspect to police with a single click. At the same time, they continue to monitor their movements.
And the human is best summed up by the cool-headed actions of security guard Salim Toorabally.
He was manning a turnstile at Gate L – part of a team of 150 security guards on duty on the outer perimeter of the Stade de France – and stopped Islamic State bomber Bilal Hadfi on instinct from entering the stadium and detonating his explosive belt.