The FIFA World Cup 2018 will begin this month, and up to 1 million fans are expected to descend on the stadia of host nation Russia. The safety and security of stadiums and crowded spaces will be a top priority for organisers, with the lingering memories of incidents that have taken place around the globe over the last few years driving the host nation to rise to the challenge.
FIFA and the Russian hosts are no doubt conducting final preparations, and in the lead up to the tournament kick off, they will have completed training, drills, and wider strategy sessions around safety and security. As the players take to the field to secure glory for the countries, a team of staff will be working behind the scenes to keep both the players and the fans safe, securing the venues, and an almost equal number of official public viewing locations / fan zones, to ensure the safety of everyone sharing in the World Cup experience.
As security consultants with experience in the field of stadia and public spaces, we’ve identified 5 key elements that should be on the agenda for one of the largest sporting events in the world.
1. The Fans
The sheer numbers of people flocking to Russia this summer from more than 32 competing nations will present a daunting task. People from all different cultures and backgrounds will be mixing together in the cities playing host to these crowds. Managing a football crowd is a unique endeavor, with stewards acting to ensure there is appropriate segregation amongst rival fans and preventing fans from entering the field of play. Should stadium spectators be considered a threat? A potential target? Both?
2. The Chain of Command
The number of staff required to make a football game possible necessitates a coordinated effort. To achieve this, every individual needs to understand their role and where they fit in as cogs in a larger machine. An effective operational hierarchy ensures that instructions are communicated from the command level, to supervisors and managers, to the people on the ground.
In addition to this, there will be external parties who need to be able to attach and detach from this organisational hierarchy as required such as police and emergency, security and logistics staff for each team, and the security staff for any VIP’s attending these high-profile games.
3. Rules of Engagement
While FIFA has worked hard to ensure consistency of judgements on the pitch, the teams managing the stadiums will likely be working just as hard to ensure all fans are treated equally. This means developing and standardising the security policies and procedures for all stadiums in parallel, including levels of authority for staff. Who has the power to detain or eject spectators? What offences should a fan receive a warning for, as opposed to being evicted from a match, and potentially any future matches they have tickets for? The rules by which the fans and staff must abide, will need to be just as evenly enforced as those on the pitch, in the interests of “fair play”.
4. Controlling Access
Securing stadiums and their immediate vicinity isn’t a once-over exercise. Maintaining the integrity of the secured areas means controlling access at the perimeter, and at any secure line within the secure zone. Whether this is segregating back of house areas and VIP boxes from public spaces, or making sure that fans supporting opposing teams have separate arrival and departure paths, seating areas, and even segregated evacuation routes. The World Cup 2018 organising committee has apparently already put plans in motion to secure and monitor access to large areas of the host cities, including identity checks, pre-screening of attendees, and restricted or forbidden zones to prevent rival fan groups from potentially engaging in the kind of street fights seen in Marseille, France during the 2016 European Championship.
5. Forewarned is Forearmed
With so many fans travelling to Russia to cheer on their teams, the task of screening for potential troublemakers would be insurmountable without the assistance of automation. While most of the heavy lifting in this endeavour should be picked up by Russian border control and immigration authorities, internal watch lists from both Russian and football organisations worldwide will likely be compared to the names provided when spectators apply to purchase tickets. Depending on the circumstances, this may lead to some spectators being monitored more closely, or even denied entry to venues altogether, if they are deemed to be an overt risk.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup is one of the highest profile sporting events in the world, and given the public profile, it is unsurprising that threats from ISIS and other terrorist organisations have already been received. The security exercise being undertaken for this event, particularly in the current global political climate, is likely to be of a scope rarely seen, with up to 1 million fans, visiting a dozen stadiums, for 65 international matches, over the course of a month. The operational tempo for the Russian hosts will no doubt be intense and sustained. With the eyes of the world watching, both FIFA and Russia will be looking to come away 1-0 against both local and international security threats.