(WFI) The president of the International Sports Press Association has voiced “serious concern” and called on FIFA to step up security after Chilean fans broke into the media centre at Rio’s Maracana Stadium last night.
A group of ticketless Chilean fans broke through a security barrier and invaded the press centre to the astonishment of journalists working there, in their quest to enter the stadium for Chile’s match against Spain.
Their efforts were eventually thwarted by security guards and 87 fans were arrested. But the incident and several other security breaches in other World Cup host cities has prompted major questions about Brazil’s organization of the FIFA event.
Amid furious scenes at today’s media briefing at the Maracana, angry journalists were left dissatisfied by the inability of FIFA, Brazil 2014 LOC and city authorities to say what they were doing to improve security in the wake of the most serious breach at the World Cup so far.
A statement from AIPS president Gianni Merlo was read out at the press conference. He said he was writing out of “serious concern” in the aftermath of the incident at the Maracana.
“While we accept and believe in the goodwill of the staff of FIFA and the Local Organising Committee it is a clearly a matter of regret that that ‘real’ security and safety for our colleagues is absent,” he said.
“AIPS is aware of concerns raised previously by colleagues concerning thefts from lockers, inadequate catering exacerbated by the petty confiscation of minor items of food and drink and even of a coat hanger which, for the broadcast journalist concerned, counted as professional equipment.
“Every troublesome incident prompts the likelihood of ‘copycat’ repeat. This is no exception.
We call on FIFA to ensure that the focus of security staff within the FIFA Zone is directed at real security for the sake of all working journalists and members of AIPS.”
Asked by several journalists what measures were being introduced to ensure such a breach did not happen again, FIFA and World Cup organisers were at a loss to explain how security would be tightened at the Maracana and in the other 11 host cities.
FIFA’s security director Ralf Mutschke admitted “It is embarrassing. We have to protect the media. We also have to protect the fans.”
He said the stewards had done a “great job” in
seizing “a lot of butterfly knives”, firecrackers and pyrotechnics.
FIFA and Brazil 2014 officials said the invasion of Chilean fans could not be explained by a lack of security personnel. More than 1037 stewards were in place from private firms; there was no reduction in staff for the Spain v Chile game.
World Cup organisers this morning met with FIFA and city officials to discuss the Maracana incident at their daily debrief.
Mutschke said he was “confident” that the measures discussed would avoid any repeat of the breach. Pressed about what these were, he said “It’s not a big secret or from another planet” to understand that “protocols
and individual failures” would all be assessed before decisions were made.
But Brazil 2014 organisers had no answer to questions about how they were reacting to the security problem, other than to say more meetings would take place today.
One furious Brazilian journalist was told to “calm down” by FIFA’s head of media after shouting questions and demanding explanations about Brazil’s World Cup security “failures”, as he put it.
He cited the 200 security guards who didn’t show up to conduct mag and bag checks for the Brazil match in Fortaleza, a breach that allowed Chilean fans to throw fireworks on the pitch at the Chile v Australia game and the Maracana security scare.
“What is being done to end the fiasco in security?”, he asked, suggesting FIFA should acknowledge that security was understaffed and training of guards and stewards was an issue.
FIFA and the LOC said the mix of public and private security was in general working. They confirmed that an additional company had been recruited to beef up security controls in Fortaleza.
FIFA has promised an update on the new security measures at Friday’s daily briefing. Match-fixing is also a topic.
One city official said a risk analysis was underway with intelligence forces to determine what raft of new security controls would be added at the Maracana. He suggested some of the procedures may only be adapted.
Mutschke explained that after debriefs every morning wehre feedback was gathered from the 12 host cities and issues were discussed “immediate action and planning takes place to improve the situation”.
He said there was “always a Plan B” if there was a lack of stewards at mag and bag checks, or if power failures meant x-rays didn’t work.
Ticket Touts Work FIFA Hotel
FIFA say two ticket touts were arrested after being caught selling tickets in the federation’s official hotel in Rio earlier this week.
Marketing director Thierry Weil confirmed that two, one French-speaking, were subject of an ongoing investigation.
He said he didn’t know where the tickets had originated from. Weil couldn’t confirm if they had come from a FIFA official, a national football association or elsewhere.
FIFA’s message to fans who have tried to get lost or stolen tickets is to ask for them to be reissued before match days.
World football’s governing body said also that it was recycling some of the tickets that had been blocked when reported stolen. They are being put back on sale on FIFA.com, even on the day of matches, under efforts to fill more seats at stadiums.
Empty seats have been seen at a number of World Cup matches, which are partly explained by no-shows – people not turning up due to travel issues or other reasons, FIFA said.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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