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Working the crowd: FIFA Safety & Security Officers gather in Zurich


The millions of fans that attended this year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia may not have noticed, but 19,000 stewards were in place to ensure that the whole tournament was a celebration of football and culture from start to finish. For FIFA and the Russian Local Organising Committee, this was mission accomplished, as the highest compliment that can be given about an event is that visitors don’t notice the security.

A training workshop, held at the Home of FIFA from 17 to 19 October, aimed to consolidate the experience and knowledge of the current crop of FIFA Safety & Security Officers and to identify those who have what it takes to represent FIFA at future tournaments. In the case of security at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, thought was given to how to apply the successful blueprint elsewhere around the world.

“On the one hand, we had to provide the highest level of security as required by state security agencies, while, on the other, FIFA needed us to ensure a fun, friendly atmosphere. For us, security means ‘comfort’, and we wanted to create as little inconvenience as possible for every client group,” explains Alexander Protasov, LOC Russia Security Director. “As a host country, you have to focus on your own unique situation and plan accordingly. For example, we started out with virtually no stewards in Russia, but we trained 19,000 for the World Cup and they did a fantastic job. Essentially, it comes down to two things: planning and training. If the participants can take away just ten per cent of what we’ve shared here, that can only be a good thing.”

The three-day workshop took in sessions on FIFA’s Stadium Safety & Security Regulations and their practical application through risk management, crowd management, and safe capacity calculations. It also saw presentations from FIFA’s Safety & Security Team, the CAF Security Co-ordinator, and Protasov, and participants engaged in individual and group exercises, learned from real-life case studies (including the introduction of stewarding to Brazil, and the Hillsborough and Bradford stadium disasters), and performed a “matchday desktop emergency and crisis management scenario” exercise.

The 30 participants – each from a different Member Association across the six confederations and picked from among 150 applicants from 82 member associations – left Zurich better equipped to manage safety and security in their home environments and with a clearer picture of what it is to be a FIFA Senior Safety & Security Officer after hearing testimonies from those who have trodden the path before them.

Dr. Christian Emeruwa is one of a handful of participants selected for a pilot project in 2014 that paired junior safety & security officers with experienced senior counterparts. Alongside his everyday duties as National Security Officer for the Nigerian Football Federation, he has been involved in and – more recently – led security operations at several stadiums for FIFA tournaments, including in Luzhniki Stadium throughout the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

“As FIFA Safety & Security Officers, we work under the basic principles of ‘coordination, communication and cooperation’. It’s not about telling local authorities what to do, but instead working together with them to make sure they meet the safety and security regulations come matchday. It takes good interpersonal skills and an awareness of social, legal and political sensitivities, because the situation in each country is different,” explains Dr. Emeruwa. “Initiatives like the mentoring project and these workshops are helping to raise standards – of the safety & security officers specifically, and of safety and security in football competitions generally.”

“The FIFA Safety & Security team is driven by the vision of a world where all football stadiums are safe and welcoming for everyone. We have regulations for security teams to follow in their matchday operations, but there is no substitute for real-life experience. Workshops like this are of crucial importance to passing on to FIFA’s member associations the invaluable expertise and know-how that our colleagues from around the world have gained first-hand,” said FIFA Director of Safety & Security Helmut Spahn.

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