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World Cup Security in Play

WHEN THE 19TH FIFA World Cup kicks off in South Africa this month, years of security preparations will come into play. The soccer event, which runs from June 11 to July 11, will take place in 10 cities, involve 32 athletic teams, and be watched by billions of viewers worldwide.

Security issues have been at the forefront since FIFA organizers announced in 2004 that South Africa would be the first African nation to host the popular soccer tournament, which only occurs once every four years. In anticipation of the event, the South African Police Service (SAPS) has purchased equipment, which includes helicopters, mobile command vehicles, body armor, and water cannons. The SAPS also recruited 55,000 new police officers over the past five years. In order to manage crowd control issues, approximately 8,500 police completed a year-long training program with the French National Gendarmerie, which gained relevant experience in crowd management during the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France.

INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents database will be used to check the travel documents of visitors to the country. The database alerts border control guards if a traveler tries to use a fraudulent document with information matching one of the nearly 20 million stolen or lost travel documents that have been reported by agencies in 147 member countries. INTERPOL has also developed a Dangerous and Disruptive Persons list for use by South Africa during the tournament. That database will help the border control authorities identify travelers who have a record of being involved in organized crime or who are known as one of the infamous “football hooligans.”

These measures should help reduce the risks for everyone attending the games, but security professionals still need to be attentive to the general travel and public-event risks any of their company’s executives may face if they attend. William Besse, vice president of consulting and investigations for Andrews International who is providing executive protection for clients at the FIFA World Cup, says one challenge he anticipates is coordinating the emergency plans that have been tailored to clients with the preparations of the South African government, which is expected to take control of security and emergency services within the stadium venues.

For example, the government and FIFA have established color-coded perimeters around the stadiums. To be allowed to pass through each perimeter, the driver of the vehicle will have to be credentialed. Emergency vehicles that have been retained privately will not be allowed to enter certain zones of protection within the stadium complex, Besse says. Instead, areas will be made available outside the stadium venue.

“So if someone were to become ill, for example, and they’re in the general seating area of a 95,000 person stadium or even in the sky boxes that are going to be available in some of the larger stadiums, that immediate response will be provided by the security and the [government’s] emergency medical services in the stadium,” he says.

“We have people that we’re providing protection for, if they become ill at some point, we are going to want to take control of that and get them to the hospital that...we feel is most appropriate. That might not match up with what the government feels is most appropriate,” he adds.

Based on Andrews International’s experience at the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Besse is planning for another logistical challenge as well—credentialing and ticketing for security personnel. “If you have a specific person [who] you are there providing protection for, it doesn’t do you any good to be outside the stadium,” he says. “Just because you might have a credential, that doesn’t necessarily translate into a ticket for a seat,” he adds. The company plans to ensure that executive protection staff members have whatever credentials and tickets are needed to remain in close proximity to clients within the stadium.

Vetting drivers, some of whom have been imported from different parts of the country to meet the demand, is another of Besse’s concerns. “We should know who is behind the wheel of vehicles,” he says. “We’re going to insist on that when we put really high-profile people—senior, senior, senior clients—into a vehicle with one or two other people; those drivers will be very closely vetted, and we’ll have to have some real assurances that they know what they’re doing.”