Preventing Stadium Violence

7 Tips for Reducing Spectator
and Security Incidents at Stadiums

Introduction

Fan Violence

Not a new phenomenon.

“Better to be a Pagan than a Blue, God Knows!” This was the chant of the Greens, a group of chariot racing fans in Constantinople. The year was 532 AD and these fans were united by an aggressive brand of Christianity, finding their identity in uniform colors and organized seating.

On the other side, the Blues. The Blues represented the ruling classes and backed the religious orthodoxy. The Blues and the Greens would riot for days, resulting in tens of thousands of casualties as well as the destruction of major government office buildings and the great church of Holy Wisdom.

Thus, today’s headlines are nothing new.

But they seem to have been amplified in the Covid era. Fan violence has erupted around the globe and across a variety of sports, including baseball, basketball, hockey, and even cricket. And for reasons nobody can entirely pin down, some of the fans who have come through the turnstiles have forgotten how to behave. The more people packed into an emotionally charged venue, the more likely it is that something will go wrong.

Here’s just a smattering of headlines that have become all too familiar:

Greece

Greece will tighten rules to combat violence at sports events following the killing of a 19-year-old soccer fan in what was believed to be an attack by rival supporters.

Mexico

A Liga MX soccer match ended with violence in the stands that left 26 injured, 3 of whom critically, when rival fan bases spilled onto the pitch.

United States

A brawl broke out at a college basketball game between rival fans and players. As players from both teams stood in their respective huddles with their coaches, a fight broke out in one student section inside the Chase Athletic Center. Video shows drinks and bottles being thrown and fans from both schools pushing each other in the stands.

England

Fan violence erupted during the European Championship final between England and Italy at Wembley Stadium. As a result, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said, “The images of violence at Wembley stadium at last year’s Euro final are unacceptable. When a family goes to see a match of any competition, it should be a time for fun, celebration and enjoyment. People should feel safe in and around a stadium. They should never feel in danger. With the authorities’ help, this cannot happen again. Ever.”

Many stadiums and sports venues are left wondering how they can safeguard the fan experience and keep hooligans, criminals and bad actors out.

Stadiums, arenas, ballparks and even race tracks have the complicated undertaking of keeping players and fans safe in venues that attract tens of thousands of fans at once.

The big difference between Roman times and today is that technologies now exist that can help mitigate the problem and lead to better outcomes and accountability.

Being able to recognize security threats in real-time is crucial for ensuring the safety of all guests. Whether it be physical altercations between fans or unauthorized entry on the field, security teams often struggle to investigate these incidents in real-time, identify hooligans, and prevent them from disrupting sporting events.

Who needs to be identified?

When you speak to security professionals at professional sports venues, they will tell you that there are a wide variety of security threats. Some obvious, some not so obvious. The key is to quickly identify the good, the bad, and the ugly in real-time, including:

https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/p1.png

Gang
members

https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/p2.png

Hooligans

https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/p3.png

Ticket
scalpers

https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/p4.png

VIPs

https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/p5.png

Players, coaches
and current and
former employees

arrow If you can identify them early, you have a much better chance of taking proactive measures to protect the safety of everyone.
The Challenges

A Growing Complexity

In an effort to become more proactive, security commanders at sports venues must contend with a number of challenges that make protecting fans, players and staff incredibly difficult and stretch their limited resources. Crowd management is important to this experience, helping people flow easily into and out of the stadium without conflict, but this job is made harder as city populations densify. Stadium security must deal not just with its own fans, but with an awareness of the game’s context and potential for violence.

Some of the challenges that stadium security must contend with, include:

check

Unable to identify bad actors in real-time

Many stadiums still rely on security professionals remembering the faces of known bad actors. This is obviously not a very reliable or scalable approach when you might have hundreds or even thousands of persons of interest (POIs) on your watchlist.
check

Covering a large geographic footprint

Many stadiums are massive (spanning hundreds of thousands of square meters) which provides a very large footprint to protect. These spaces include everything from parking areas, concessions, VIP suites, practice facilities, conference space and the stadium itself.
check

Limited security staffing

Having small security and surveillance teams only compounds the problem. Security is typically deployed at the venue’s choke points where the most people are flowing in and out. But, this can leave other areas unsupervised and unprotected.
check

Need for rapid incident response

It can often be difficult to spot violence as it happens and then respond swiftly to identify, locate and apprehend the bad actors.
check

Using video to facilitate and expedite forensic investigations

When fan violence does occur, security teams often need tools to determine who was involved in the violence and who were the innocent bystanders and actual victims.
Security needs to ingest video evidence from a myriad of potential sources to act quickly and identify suspects as well as victims.
check

Supporting massive video streams

Another practical concern for stadiums is the amount of graphic processing units (GPUs) and on-premise servers required to support real-time watchlist alerting (with facial recognition). When stadiums add more camera channels to their visual surveillance operations, they immediately discover the headaches and high costs associated with scaling their existing infrastructure to accommodate a large number of video channels.
The usual remedy is to buy additional on-premise GPUs with enough processing horsepower to convert all of the video data into actionable insight.
The Solution

How Facial Recognition Can Help

Fights between rival fans, increased hooligan violence, object throwing and drug use are all causing concern for stadiums, ballparks and sports venues of all stripes. Unfortunately, rules are being ignored, safety measures are overwhelmed, and arrests are being made on a regular basis.

Given these challenges, security teams at sports venues need to leverage technologies that help proactively protect the fan experience. Modern technologies can equip security personnel with vital situational awareness capabilities that enable better and faster decision making to mitigate the situation.

Sporting clubs are increasingly tapping into facial recognition-based technologies and analytics to optimize the guest experience and better secure their facilities.

Watchlist Screening

To prevent unwanted people (e.g., known hooligans, felons, etc.) from entering stadiums or events, facial recognition systems scan all faces as they enter, denying access to previous offenders who can be recognized even if they are wearing a face mask, glasses or hat.

Live Surveillance

In combination with high-quality video surveillance cameras, stadiums can analyze all the faces of a crowd in real-time and instantly detect people on a watchlist. Once detected, an alert notifies security of unauthorized individuals or those whose behavior is unwanted. Plus, individuals can be placed on a stadium’s watchlist as violence unfolds so that they are not allowed inside for future events.

Staffing Efficiency

Instead of security staff having to memorize the faces of POIs, which can number in the hundreds, facial recognition can accurately spot these individuals in just seconds with a high degree of accuracy.

VIP Identification

Facial recognition is being used to identify VIPs or loyalty members for exclusive access or reward programs, as well as to grant access to privileged areas of an arena (e.g., practice facilities, server rooms, or VIP suites/parking).

Criminal Identification

Once a picture of a hooligan or known criminal is added to the watchlist, authorities can rely on the neural networks to identify these bad actors in real time — even if the person of interest is not looking directly at the camera, is wearing a mask or is even obscured by others in the crowd. If the algorithm identifies a face in real-time matching that of a photograph in the system, it’s a win! Face recognition software helps prevent a crime even before it takes place.

Touchless Ticket Validation

Facial recognition can play a significant role in getting fans into the stadium in a way that minimizes the risk of contracting a virus. The technology offers fans a completely contactless way of having their ticket validated.

Identify and Locate Lost Children

Losing a child at a crowded stadium is an all too familiar occurrence. While the standard protocol should be to educate children to contact an event staff member should they become separated from their family or group, this obviously does not always happen. Thankfully, FRT is being used to scan crowds to quickly locate and return lost or even abducted children.

Edge & Near-Edge Computing

By pushing more analytic capabilities closer to where data is collected (i.e., the video cameras), stadiums and sports venues are achieving greater responsiveness, efficiency, and TCO savings with small, low-power, near-edge appliances or by having the neural networks that power facial recognition and other video analytics operate at the chip level within the video cameras.

7 Tips

Reducing Spectator and Security Incidents at Stadiums

What can security operators do to better protect fans and players, and increase the level of safety? Here are seven practical steps to become more proactive with physical security:

1. Maintain a Complete Watchlist

A watchlist is simply a list of people with their pictures. These can be known hooligans and bad actors or potentially suspicious individuals that should be monitored when they enter a stadium or ballpark. Through the power of face-based biometrics, you can identify these bad actors even before they set foot within your stadium. You can also add pictures of hooligans to your watchlist if you see them involved in violence, even if you don’t know their names.

Upload list of known hooligans and banned spectators.
Receive instant alerts when the system identifies bad actors and hooligans on your watchlist appear before they enter the stadium. Respond and remove watchlisted POIs immediately.
Identify new hooligans in real-time and dynamically add them to watchlist.

How Oosto’s Watchlist Alerting Works

The process of using facial recognition for watchlist alerting requires a bank of reasonably high-quality images of bad actors. The watchlist generally consists of a preexisting list of bad actors, but fans can be added dynamically as violence erupts using live footage from your CCTV cameras. And remember, a watchlist does not just include bad actors— it can include VIPs, players, staff and vetted contractors.

1.

The operator of the arena takes photos of hooligans upon being detained; the operator then adds the hooligans to a watchlist, so if they return to the stadium, the operator will be alerted.

2.

In real-time, Oosto’s system matches the faces of individuals captured by your surveillance cameras positioned at entrance gates with those on the watchlist.

3.

When the system recognizes matching features from the database, a warning message instantaneously pops up on the screen (and an audible alarm sounds) at the stadium’s surveillance center.

4.

That information is shared immediately with security officers at the venue, who then act accordingly.

2. Ensure You Have Complete Camera Coverage

Security teams will want to have stadium cameras positioned in strategic locations so personnel can identify the bad actors (as well as players, coaching staff and VIPs). As we mentioned earlier, stadiums occupy a lot of space, which means security operators need to situate their cameras for optimal coverage in order to identify hooligans (and other POIs) before they enter the stadium.

https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Vector-Smart-Object-3.png

3. Create an Early Warning System

https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/tips-2.jpg

Depending on your relationship with your city, you can even potentially identify bad actors at entry hubs, such as train or subway stations, well before an individual sets foot on stadium grounds. It’s imperative to identify watchlist individuals early as they often attempt to elude detection. Security rings can be established at different points outside a stadium with the goal being to identify bad actors early before they enter the stadium. This can be done when they’re parking, when they’re walking up the breezeways to the stadium, or at the actual turnstiles of the venue. Once identified, security will be alerted and you can ensure they don’t impact the user experience for your courteous fans.

4. Touchless Access Control

https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/tips-3.jpg

But facial recognition is not just about security. FRT can also be harnessed to enhance the fan experience.

Facial recognition is increasingly being used as a means of providing touchless, secure access control of VIPs, players and staff. Face-based access control is designed to balance security and visitor management by instantly recognizing authorized personnel and alerting security staff of any unauthorized entry in real-time. Unlike card keys, fobs or keypads, which can be lost, stolen, or shared, facial recognition ensures that the person gaining access is uniquely authorized to do so.

Moreover, registered spectators who have forgotten their paper ticket can still enter and enjoy the action. And those who don’t want to upload a photo still have the option of using the conventional turnstiles.

https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/tips-3-box-.png

Facial Recognition and Access Control in the NFL

The owner of a National Football League (NFL) team wanted to improve security and experience for 200 professional athletes and staff with a biometric system that could accommodate an unusual range of heights (five to seven feet tall) and provide a future-proof solution that avoided equipment redundancy.

https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/quote.png

Being able to walk into the facility without breaking stride and knowing that we’re preventing surface transmission and keeping players safe while maintaining the highest level of access control throughout the stadium – that’s a win for everyone. It’s less expensive and requires less effort than you think, and it pays off in every metric.”

https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/icon.png
Pre-registration & digital ticketing
https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/icon-1.png
Barriers open based on facial recognition
https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/icon-2.png
Enters fastlane bypassing normal queues
https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/icon-3.png
Facemask detection
https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/icon-4.png
Ticket collection

5. Lock Down Sensitive Areas to Designated Players, Coaches, Employees & VIPs

Staffing each point of entry is unaffordable, and the use of access control solutions that require human touch are no longer safe. Biometric entry gates give your VIPs and season-ticket holders shorter queues and quicker access: fans ordering season tickets can opt to upload an ID photo, which will subsequently be compared in real-time with images captured at the stadium entrance.

There are strategic access points that you must protect for audiences in stadiums, including the locker room, practice facility, weight room, cafeteria, sports medicine/recovery room, server rooms, VIP suites and executive areas. Users simply look at a wall sensor or camera, and the door automatically opens without having to break stride.

This is an effective way to protect these important spaces and ensure no undesirables disrupt their experience. Sports venues are even using facial recognition to identify players and VIPs as they enter special parking lots. The process is fast, easy and completely touchless!

6. Re-identifying Bad Actors

Facial recognition is increasingly being used to identify criminals with no other means of identification and to locate missing people by comparing faces captured on camera feeds with those on watchlists. Once a hooligan or bad actor has been identified, surveillance operators can use facial recognition systems to retroactively search for and find all previous occurrences of that person. Some facial recognition solutions can even search historic video footage for specific people based on personal attributes (e.g., clothing color, presence of a backpack, etc.). These systems are able to quickly find specific video clips using simple search criteria to identify POIs and quickly view all previous detections even if their identity is unknown.

https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/tips-6.png

7. Streamlined Investigations

Facial recognition is not just about real-time alerting. Video analytics can be used for accelerating investigations after an event has occurred and for identifying likely suspects.

https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Vector-Smart-Object-4.png

Perform video forensics in minutes

Facial recognition is not just about real-time alerting. Video analytics can be used for accelerating investigations after an event has occurred and for identifying likely suspects.
https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Vector-Smart-Object-1-1.png

Ingest multiple video files

Incorporate video from multiple sources (e.g., CCTV cameras, iPhone videos, body-worn cameras, etc.) to perform a more holistic investigation and leverage Oosto’s watchlist alerting, OnWatch, to identify subjects across multiple file types.
https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Vector-Smart-Objectss.png

Streamlined case management

View all your existing cases and add new ones. Each case can contain multiple video or image files as well as associated live cameras that can be analyzed to identify subjects or POIs.
https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Vector-Smart-Object-3-1.png

Find repeat appearances of a specific individual

Take advantage of Oosto’s powerful facial recognition to identify POIs whenever they enter a facility or space.
https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Vector-Smart-Object-4-1.png

Advanced search filters

Search through the case video for subject names as well as filter by the creation date range.
https://oosto.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/Vector-Smart-Object-2-1.png

Track a subject’s route through body recognition

Follow an individual based on their clothing color, gender or accessories (e.g., whether they’re carrying a backpack).
Compliance Tips

How Pro Sports Teams and Venues Can Stay a Step Ahead of Biometric Privacy Compliance

Pro sports teams have already been the target of class action litigation under today’s biometric privacy laws. As just one example, in early 2020, the Chicago Blackhawks were hit with a Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) class action lawsuit stemming from the team’s use of facial scanning technology at home games.

From a broader perspective, while relatively few biometric privacy laws are in existence today, we’re likely to see a flood of new regulations governing the collection and use of biometric data in the future. This is especially likely as lawmakers resume their normal activities after spending much of their time in 2020 on pandemic-related matters, and as companies rely more heavily on biometrics to leverage the health benefits these contactless technologies provide.

Pro sports franchises and venues that take proactive steps to build out their biometric privacy compliance programs—especially those that may not yet be subject to state-specific biometric privacy laws—can get a step ahead on the anticipated facial recognition laws that will likely be put in place.

Professional teams and their venues should consider the following:

Early Involvement of Biometric Privacy Counsel

Consult with experienced biometric privacy counsel well before any type of facial recognition technology is implemented to ensure compliance with today’s constantly-evolving biometric privacy legal landscape.

Written Notice

Provide written notice, before any facial template data is collected, which clearly informs individuals that facial template data is being collected, used, and/or stored by the company; how that data will be used and/or shared; and the length of time over which the team/venue will retain the data until it is destroyed.

Opt-Out

Permit fans to opt out of the collection of their facial template data.

Arbitration Provisions in Ticket Contracts

Include mandatory arbitration provisions and class action waivers in all ticket contracts requiring fan disputes or claims that may arise under biometric privacy or similar laws must be resolved through binding, individual arbitration, and not in court, to limit biometric privacy class action litigation risk.

Privacy Policy

Develop a publicly-available, detailed facial recognition-specific privacy policy that includes, at a minimum, clear notice that facial template data is being collected, as well as additional information regarding the purposes for which facial template data is used, and the team’s and/or venue’s schedule and guidelines for the retention and destruction of this data.

Written Release

Obtain a signed written release from all individuals prior to the time any facial template data is collected that permits the team/venue to collect/use the individual’s biometric data.

Data Security

Maintain data security measures to safeguard facial template data from unauthorized access, disclosure, or acquisition.

Conclusion

Facial recognition is fast becoming part and parcel of our everyday lives.

Many people already use it to unlock their smartphones and most airports now have biometric automated border control systems for passport checks.

Stadiums and sports venues have not always leveraged technology to its fullest extent. But given the rise in fan violence and the increased need to protect fans, players, and staff, stadiums are adopting facial recognition and video analytics to identify bad actors in real-time and ensure they’re not given the opportunity to endanger fans, players or staff, or disrupt the gameday experience. Some countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, have enacted laws to quell excesses by punishing hooligans with jail or even canceling sporting events. Others are hoping modern technologies can deliver a better experience for attendees and, at the same time, gain a greater knowledge of their audiences to optimize sales strategies.

The benefits of facial recognition technology to the sports and events sector is clear, and this is why many stadiums, ballparks, arenas and large event organizations have adopted Oosto’s video surveillance and access control technologies.

Get started.

Use the form below to have an Oosto representative contact you to arrange a demo.