FIFA’s Director of Safety, Security & Access shares 2024 predictions 


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International Security Journal hears from Helmut Josef Spahn, Director Safety, Security and Access, FIFA, Switzerland.

Security risks and trends at sporting events in 2024 will encompass a wide range of concerns and it’s essential to address risks to ensure the security, safety, service and enjoyment of participants, officials, delegations and spectators.

Predicting the exact course of trends over the next 12 months is always challenging due to the ever-evolving nature of technology as well geopolitical threats.

However, here are some views on where security at major sport events may be heading. 

Security risks and trends include: Terrorism; Cybersecurity threats (reliance on technology for ticketing, communication, media and event operations means cyber-attacks, data breaches and ransomware attacks may target events); Crowd control and safety; Hooliganism and fan violence; Protests and demonstrations; Racism and hate speech (an ever-growing problem, especially via social media); Pandemic-related concerns (ongoing risk may require health and safety protocols, including vaccination and testing requirements, to protect participants/spectators). 

Prevention and mitigation measures 

  • Comprehensive risk assessment – conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities 
  • Enhanced measures – implement advanced security measures, such as facial recognition, security cameras and metal detectors at entry points to identify potential threats 
  • Cybersecurity protocols – strengthen cybersecurity by updating and patching systems, conducting penetration testing and implementing strong encryption and access controls 
  • Crowd management – plan crowd control and safety strategies, including well-defined entry and exit points, clear signage, comprehensive last mile operations and well trained personnel to handle operations and emergencies 
  • Fan engagement and education – promote a culture of respect and sportsmanship among fans through education and awareness campaigns. Encourage fans to report incidents of violence or unruly behaviour 
  • Social media monitoring – continuous monitoring and detection of insults, hatred and racism on social media to identify perpetrators 
  • Protest management – work with local authorities to establish designated protest areas, maintain open lines of communication with protest organisers and develop contingency plans for managing demonstrations 
  • Pandemic preparedness – develop and communicate health and safety protocols, such as mask mandates. Ensure medical staff and facilities are available on-site 
  • Collaboration – work closely with local law enforcement and security agencies to share intelligence and coordinate efforts. Communication, cooperation, coordination and collaboration are essential 
  • Emergency response and evacuation – establish and communicate detailed emergency response and evacuation plans to address scenarios such as fire or severe weather 
  • Public awareness and communication – keep the public informed about security measures, entry requirements and safety procedures through various communication channels including websites, social media and on-site signage. 

Mitigating security risks at major sporting events requires a multi-faceted and multi-agency holistic approach, involving cooperation between event organisers, local authorities, security agencies and the public.

Continuous monitoring of evolving threats and adaptability to changing circumstances is crucial to ensuring a safe and secure environment for participants and fans. 

But, despite all this, we should not forget that security is not an end in itself and that we are organising a sporting event and not a security event.

Security is first and foremost, a spectator service and must always be based on an adequate risk analysis.

True to the principle: As much security as necessary, with as few restrictions as necessary. 

Helmut Josef Spahn 

Helmut is Director Safety, Security and Access of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), former Director General of the International Centre for Sport Security (ICSS) and former President of the famous and prestigious football club, Kickers Offenbach.

Helmut spent over 20 years as a high ranking officer in the German police force and was formerly Head of Security for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany and Chief Security Officer for the German Football Association (Deutscher Fussball-Bund, DFB).

He has been a UEFA Security Officer for the Champions League and Europa League as well as UEFA Euro 2012. 

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