General security

Using Technology To Enhance Public Safety

Dimitar Kostadinov
January 16, 2013 by
Dimitar Kostadinov

This article is focused on the sport football (or soccer in the USA). Nevertheless, the same technology and security measures can be applied in virtually any other major sports event or any identical activity involving gathering a large mass of people at one location.


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Technology has been a significant section of policing football hooliganism since the 1980s and as stated, "the very essence of policing…is and will be 'revolutionized' through the increased application of different technologies…" (Hoogenboom 2010: 133). Currently, its progress and modernization process is so advanced that it presents an excellent opportunity for introducing some innovations into the never-ending fight against football hooliganism.

If one wants to understand how exactly the technological revolution has improved the security across stadiums and similar event centers all over the world during the past couple of decades, one must review the different technological means used from its advent until the contemporary hi-tech digital systems employed in the last couple of years. In this regard, a short survey may give the impartial reader an idea why the use of technology is very important in combating the criminals, in this case football ultras, and how this trend and its significance is going to develop in the future as an inseparable part of every successful police strategy.

Besides the technology factor, the concepts of Identity Resolution and Complex event processing (CEP) may also present a feasible option for future research in resolving this security issue (Poulter, 2010).
The article examines three types of technologies employed against football hooligans: CCTV, Fingerprint recognition, and IP CCTV.

I. CCTV (Closed-Circuit television)

The tragedies that happened at the Heysel Stadium (1985) and Hillsborough Stadium (1989) were a turning point in terms of football safety and the well-being of spectators. A number of new measures were introduced most notably in the UK, such as all-seater stadiums, the Football Banning Order, Closed-Circuit television (CCTV), etc. (Blackshaw, 2004).

In the UK, CCTV has been utilized in the battle against football hooliganism in the early 70's. During that time, the country suffered greatly from the scourge of uncontrollable football extremism. Nowadays, with cameras covering the stadiums and its surrounding areas, the CCTV system is an indispensable and important tool of every football event. Because CCTV is so widespread, fans are used to being under constant surveillance.

The following facts are pointed out in favour of the excessive use of CCTV by the authorities:

1) Real time surveillance

2) Identification of suspected persons

3) Evidence in court

4) Control

5) CCTV development

6) Deterrence

The general security practice requires stadiums and event centers to have their own premises monitoring and observation in and around the area. Constant vigilance should be maintained over the visitors entering and even leaving the stadium. By doing so, police staff can keep track of the human traffic and easily spot suspicious behavior and potential troubles.

Everything can be recorded and used eventually as evidence for further prosecution of hooligans involved in illegal activities. Besides the stationary CCTV system, there is a mobile one – the "hoolivan," a vehicle equipped with a sophisticated set of wide-range cameras, satellite telephone access, wireless connection, and access authority to data resources (Rowlands 2001: 1). This van provides a back-up plan in case the main communication command center is out of order (Connors, 2007).

In spite of the security measures taken in countries like the UK and the Netherlands, namely, CCTV and all seater stadiums, they do not eradicate violence completely, because it just changed its location from the stadiums into the streets (Loweson, 1995). Evidently, evaluation charts from the UK display no crime reduction to the closely adjoining areas, but only in the immediate spot. It seems that most of the hooligans probably have an idea on how to evade the camera range and this was proved by one research which questioned about 30 offenders who managed to outline surprisingly accurately which plots are covered by the camera surveillance (Groombridge, 2002).

How about the fans' point of view concerning CCTV? Many of them believe that their right of privacy is infringed. This claim may also have some legal grounds since Article 8 of the Human Rights Act proclaims that "everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." This provision may only be restricted because of other high values like national security and public safety. Yet, football supporters think that the excessive utilization of CCTV is not proportionate and certainly not just (Liberty, 2010).

There are many places in the US where camera surveillance is also being used. While acceptance is normal in cities like Dallas or San Diego, the police in other cities such as Portland assert that there is a high probability for the people to object to video cameras on the streets. As an alternative to using video cameras as a deterrent, once at a public event in Columbus, Ohio, the local police deployed a "scissors jack" hydraulic platform with two officers on top at a visible place. The police in Oklahoma even placed 20-foot high "deer stands" in the middle of the Tulsa State Fair once (Connors, 2007).

II. Fingerprint recognition devices against football hooligans

1.1 Meaning of the term "biometrics" and types.

The term derives from the Greek words "bios" /life/ and "metron" /measure/. Biometric scanning is based on gathering individuals' unique physical data and characteristics for the purpose of correct authentication. There are different types of biometrics: retina and iris biometrics, fingerprints and handprints, and voice prints. Some scholars like Lawrence A. Farwell even introduced the notion of "brain prints" (Farwell, 2000). Each of these types has its own specification and requires certain technological wherewithal to be properly implemented on the ground. For example, at the 2001 Super Bowl, police using face recognition technology scanned and compared thousands of fans' faces with a database of criminals (Crews Jr., 2002).

In the future, sophisticated badges may come into existence. Besides holographs, numerical, colour, or bar codes—common measures against counterfeiting—they will also probably include biometric measures of the cardholder (Connors, 2007).

1.2 Biometrics vs. passwords in mass usage

Presumably, one of the best features of biometrics is the fact that it is less susceptible to abuse compared to conventional methods like passwords. Furthermore, biometrics technology is somehow more convenient and time-efficient in proving authenticity. The widespread usage of passwords nowadays is vulnerable to misconduct because of the enormous amount of different passwords that the user is obliged to keep in mind. As an alternative, biometrics can provide reliable and smooth service in this security niche, and is expected to improve the level of safety in places like stadiums, airports, subways, banks, etc. (Gurkas & Khan, 2010).

A good biometrics system should not depend on secrecy. What makes biometrics successful is not secrecy, but rather the ability to determine "liveness" (Denning, 2002: 1). The notion "liveness" refers to the value that can differentiate between living creatures composed by skin and bones from a duplicate of a man, for instance, a statue or a costume with a mask. Unlike the password method, the biometrics data need not be held secret because the verification process is focused on the liveness of the object. A good example for testing liveness in the iris recognition system is the continuous movement and pulsation produced by the eye of the scanned person.

Prof. Denning (2002) emphasizes on the fact that methods of user verification like passwords, tokens, and encryption are only good enough while there are kept in secret. And if this secret seal is broken, the whole system needs to be reconstructed. Biometrics is anticipated to hold more significance in the future due to the increasing dependency on means of information and the imminent need for a more sophisticated solution with regards to the question of a reliable and efficient recognition system (Gurkas & Khan, 2010).

2.1 Implementation of biometrics technology across stadiums

In 2007, a trial of modern stationary biometrics technology was introduced in the stadiums of some of the most notorious Dutch football clubs. However, biometric admission to a soccer stadium is not a simple thing. It must take into account the precondition that the entry should be able to process visitors very quickly, approximately three seconds per person, in order to keep the queue acceptably short. In addition, the capture device should be able to work properly in different weather conditions, because most of the football grounds are outdoors.

Nevertheless, the rate of the throughput and the quality of biometrics processing decreases significantly when the weather is not optimal. Inaccurate biometrics may lead to false accusation of visitors being involved in hooliganism, which in turn will surely have a negative impact on the attendance. In conclusion, the results of the trial were not satisfying because of the lack of efficiency, accuracy, and susceptibility to manipulation. The result, however, doesn't indicate that more advanced biometrics technology should not be able to overcome these flaws (Hartog, 2007).

2.2 Blacklist database

If intended to work properly, the biometrics system should incorporate some sort of blacklist which includes the names of banned hooligans. Positive identity verification would give the visitor entry. Verification like this would also require some sort of reference data - a database.With the blacklist database, it is enough that there is no match between the biometrics captured at the gate and those kept in the database, and it presents more risk to people trying to gain illegal entry into the stadium. For example, properly taken face recognition could be avoided if the fan twists his face. Therefore, the biometrics technology needs to effectively prevent being obstructed in such a cheap manipulative manner (Hartog, 2007).

III. "The cutting age technology" - IP CCTV

"The field of surveillance technologies covers a vast range of products and devices, but the overall trend is towards miniaturization, more precise resolution through the adoption of digital technology and increasing automation so that the technology can be more effectively targeted." (Hoogenboom 2010: 140)

This quote explains the implementation of hand-held video cameras by the police with a twofold purpose: gathering data/intelligence & deterring hooligans (Carnibella et al., 1996: 117).

According to the current UK legislation, the football clubs whose fans engage in violence or even damage property are subject to very severe fines. This is one reason, inter alia, why clubs invest in new technologies, thus improving their surveillance capabilities and dampening negative hooligan activities. A good example of a substantial update is the decision of Fulham FC to purchase and implement the new IP CCTV system, which as anyone may guess, operates via iPads.

More than 60 high definition cameras, having their own IP addresses and operating with special software designed for these particular iPads, ensure maximum coverage over the stadium and training ground.

The quality of the resolution is many times superior to the preceding analogue system. These days, it's easy to zoom and increase the size of any particular fragment from an image of interest. Moreover, in the past, a football hooligan suspect in a given crime could evade justice by denying any involvement because of a vague image. Nowadays, due to the new technology, the projection is sharp and clear, and the perpetrator cannot escape the (technological) hand of the law.

The Fulham FC's control facility is also very impressive. There are a couple of sets of enormous HD screens and, with the help of a classic joystick device, the operators may perform the same actions as on the iPads, only on larger monitors broadcasting clearer images. Additionally, there is a function that allows blocking out any "unwanted object." In the near future, touch screens would be also available, which will complete the resemblance with the interior of the control room in the famous Spielberg movie "Minority Report" (Brewster, 2011).

Clearly, the IP CCTV has time efficiency on its side over the standard VCR-driven CCTV. Another prominent advantage of the new system is the low cost footage storage and hardware maintenance.

On top of everything else enumerated so far, the new IP CCTV system is also more secure. The wireless network of Fulham FC provides instant access to the surveillance system to the club security staff via their personal iPads/iPhones. Fans will not be able to hack the wireless network since its security engine (VPN) is usually very resistant to intrusion (Brewster, 2011).

Pros/Cons Comparison table:

CCTV Fingerprint recognition IP CCTV

Quality - - +

Time-efficiency +/- - +

Cost-efficiency - +/- +/-

Security/Manipulation +/- +/- +

Future Development - + +

Conclusion: Never-ending football hooliganism?

The measures taken after the tragic incidents in Brussels and Sheffield have proven successful. The percentage of football related crimes in and around the stadiums dropped significantly since the end of the 80's. Still, football hooliganism exists and its crime scene has just shifted location out from the stadium to hidden streets, meeting points of appalling fights between belligerent ultras.

The contribution briefly outlined the most widely used technologies by police in preventing and fighting football hooliganism. Although some of them are applied with increasing success, there is no solution yet that would provide 100% coverage. In the end, football hooliganism is a lasting problem and any measures that need to be taken must be considered for the long run. On the other hand, it is clear nowadays that with the help of sophisticated toys like iPads and iPhones, police may have control to a certain extent over football hooliganism. Unfortunately, there are many officials involved in this struggle who express doubt that football hooliganism is something that can ever be eradicated completely.


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Rowlands, J. (2001). Policing European Football Hooliganism. Retrieved on 10/01/2013 from

Dimitar Kostadinov
Dimitar Kostadinov

Dimitar Kostadinov applied for a 6-year Master’s program in Bulgarian and European Law at the University of Ruse, and was enrolled in 2002 following high school. He obtained a Master degree in 2009. From 2008-2012, Dimitar held a job as data entry & research for the American company Law Seminars International and its Bulgarian-Slovenian business partner DATA LAB. In 2011, he was admitted Law and Politics of International Security to Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands, graduating in August of 2012. Dimitar also holds an LL.M. diploma in Intellectual Property Rights & ICT Law from KU Leuven (Brussels, Belgium). Besides legal studies, he is particularly interested in Internet of Things, Big Data, privacy & data protection, electronic contracts, electronic business, electronic media, telecoms, and cybercrime. Dimitar attended the 6th Annual Internet of Things European summit organized by Forum Europe in Brussels.