Home Expert Corner Importance of physical security in sports
Importance of physical security in sports
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Importance of physical security in sports

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NNTC’s Alexander Belyaev discusses the security measures implemented to monitor and protect spectators entering the stadiums.

Alexander Belyaev, Technical Director at NNTC
Alexander Belyaev, Technical Director at NNTC

The GCC region is burgeoning with upcoming large-scale events. While Dubai is set up to lead the world video gaming industry and announces its first dedicated eSports Dubai X-Stadium. Abu Dhabi is hosting the Special Olympics 2019, and the whole country is getting ready to host Expo 2020. Other GCC countries push themselves to prove being a suitable stage for international sport events. Thus, Oman Open Golf Tournament established in 2018, is an emphasis of the Sultanate’s capabilities. Bahrain along with Abu Dhabi boast with hosting F1 Grands Prix, and Kuwait has recently opened a new FIA grade 1 circuit.

During sport festivals, sport arenas and stadiums turn into small cities. Basketball games gather up to 20,000 spectators, Main League Baseball (MLB) games are watched live by up to 40,000 fans. The 2018 World Cup was held in Russia and attended by more than 3.3million spectators.

Such an impressive audience creates an indescribable atmosphere in the stands, but also becomes a serious challenge for security services at the stadiums. Violent fans from rival teams often become a problem. Security measures need to be implemented which includes protecting players, limited access to restricted areas, prevention of terrorist attacks and planning actions in case of a natural disaster. This is why today’s stadium infrastructure is an immense sophisticated complex comprising multiple advanced systems that ensure effective stadium operation and fan safety.

Distributing streams of people
One of the crucial things for stadium security is a prudent distribution of streams of people — something which mostly depends on the efficiency of stadium stewards and security service. According to the statistics, it usually takes approximately three hours for all the spectators to occupy their place at the sports venue. However, to avoid people crowding and ensure the most comfortable spectator experience, a stadium should fill its 100% capacity as per FIFA regulations (or 70% capacity as per UEFA regulations) within one hour. Therefore, it is crucial to accurately calculate acceptance rate for both the entire site and each entrance area equipped with necessary security tools.

Fitting out checkpoints
To prevent fans from bringing prohibited items such as pyrotechnics to the stadium, their checkpoints are equipped with special inspection tools, such as introscopes, walkthrough archway and portable metal detectors, as well as detectors for ionizing items and explosives. All sports merchandise and attributes are also checked, with fans having to register such stuff in advance and get a relevant permission before arriving at the stadium.

To quickly recognize if a person is on the wanted lists of either the police department or the sports club, checkpoints need identification systems powered by video analytics. In addition, video identification is also a must in a lobby, areas under the stands, and a stadium bowl. To accurately recognize faces in the crowd and identify black-listed individuals, the sports venues must have HD cameras (over 250 pixels per meter).

Automated video surveillance
An operator usually monitors about 1,000 cameras too much for a single person even to take a look. Therefore, automatic detectors are needed, perhaps not the most accurate ones, but those that enable the operator to focus on 10-15 cameras instead of a hundred. In case of long shifts, 10-15 incidents per hour is an optimal rate for an operator otherwise he or she responds poorly, makes mistakes more often, gets tired or less often just falls asleep.

The most widely used detectors recognize particular images and situations.

  • Line crossing alerts you to an unauthorized person being in the restricted area and is often used in data centers and hazardous production facilities (to save on insurance costs). It has proved to be a good option for stadiums as well.
  • Detecting unattended and lost items means that the system alerts to any package or suitcase left attended. It is actively used almost at all rail terminals and airports, less frequently at stadiums.
  • Search and recognition function means video frame sorting by certain criteria (“a red T-shirt”, “with a dog”, “low”, “long hair”, etc.). Once suspects are on site and you know how they look like, you can quickly find them even in a crowd.

Furthermore, no detector is used automatically, but all of them just attract an operator’s attention to a certain event, while the operator performs as usual.

Monitoring of engineering systems
Unified monitoring is a prerequisite for proper stadium operation and fan safety. For instance, the engineering system monitoring solution notifies an operator of the site’s current state and alerts a rapid response team to any emergency.

A system for the monitoring of engineering structures checks the health of stadium structures that are exposed to temperature and other weather conditions. As a stadium is a living organism, structure parameters of which may fluctuate a bit in certain situations. However, when such fluctuations exceed thresholds the system will notify the operator.

Fire safety
Fire safety solutions should be selected at the design stage in line with the technological specifics of particular premises. These can be point sensors that alert to various factors, such as heat or smoke. According to its specifics, the stadium has many open areas like park or adjacent territory, where you cannot use standard fire detection methods. Instead, to recognize fire or smoke, situation analytics can be employed.

Modern fan passports contain passive RFID tags being read by ticket and pass card-based access controls at the stadium entrance, as well as by special checkpoints at the exits. This helps not only recognize fans, but also helps to understand how many spectators entered, left the stadium or remain under the stands. Thus, in case of fire or other emergency, you’ll know how many fans remain at the stadium, where they are and whom you have to rescue.

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