In the wake of last November’s terrorist attacks in Paris, Chris Plimley outlines why he firmly believes that a considered mixture of physical, electronic and human security – coupled with intelligence and vigilance – is the best approach towards event safety.
Security was immediately ramped up at football stadiums the world over following the tragic events that unfolded in Paris on Friday 13 November when six co-ordinated attacks across the French capital ended the lives of 130 people.
Four days later, an international friendly encounter between Germany and Holland at the HDI Arena in Hanover was cancelled just two hours before kick-off after police received ‘concrete information’ of a planned terror attack in the stadium.
On the same night, England fans – among them Prince William (The Duke of Cambridge, the FA’s current president and second in line to the throne) – and French supporters sang La Marsellaise in unison as football stood in solidarity prior to the international match at Wembley Stadium which took place amid the unusual sight of armed police patrolling the site.
Following the Paris attacks, the British Government had announced it would intensify security at events in major cities and at UK borders, while the Metropolitan Police Service then revealed that there are presently 600 active counter-terror investigations being conducted within the UK.
Prime Minister David Cameron has responded to the escalation in terror attacks around the world by making provisions for extra security and intelligence staff and doubling funds for aviation security.
In what’s the biggest increase witnessed in British security spending since the 7/7 suicide bombings in London, new funding will now be invested in the Security and Intelligence Services to provide 1,900 new officers – an increase of 15% – across MI5, MI6 and GCHQ.
Security for The Premier League
Security at Barclays Premier League matches was stepped up in the aftermath of Paris. This season’s surprise package Leicester City – who currently sit in second place in the table behind leaders Arsenal – has stuck with its beefed-up security measures which include ‘enhanced searches’ for fans entering The King Power Stadium on match days and no readmission, which means people cannot go outside to smoke and then hope to re-enter the ground.
The security clampdown also applies at mass public gatherings beyond football, for instance at music gigs across the UK and Europe. Recent performances scheduled by U2, Foo Fighters, Years & Years and Rudimental were cancelled following the 89 deaths at The Bataclan Theatre in central Paris where the Eagles of Death Metal were playing.
Security has also been beefed up around American Football, even though the NFL was aware of no known threats. All NFL clubs ordinarily employ mandatory metal detector screening and multiple layers of perimeter security external to stadium environments in order to safeguard fans from any potential explosive threats.
How long the enhanced security for football stadiums will prevail remains open to question. It does seem to be somewhat at odds with FIFA and UEFA’s key principles of making 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 – potentially, at least – frighten them away.
The Human Element
The solution remains in key physical, electronic and human security measures coupled with intelligence and vigilance on the part of both security personnel and fans alike.
Physical measures include an outer security perimeter, secure access control systems – with turnstiles, ticket checking and counting – an integrated Control Room and emergency power back-up 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 to be used. For example, this could focus on sending an image of a suspect to the police with a single click while they continue to monitor their movements.
‘The Human Element’ is perhaps best summed up by the cool-headed actions of security officer Salim Toorabally. On 13 November, Toorabally was manning a turnstile at Stade de France’s Gate L – part of a team of 150 security officers on duty on the outer perimeter of the stadium – and, acting on gut instinct, prevented Islamic State bomber Bilal Hadfi from entering the stadium and detonating his explosive belt.
Chris Plimley is Sales Manager for High Security Products at Zaun