PtG Article 05.10.2011

Who needs anti-terrorist technology in stadiums?

Are the security measures implemented at sports events always in proportion to the threat? Or are security issues being used to protect narrow business interests and profitability?

These questions were raised by Kimberly S. Schimmel, PhD and Associate Professor of Sociology of Sport at Kent State University in the US, at Play the Game 2011. 

Schimmel pointed to the close co-operation between the National Football League (NFL) and the Department of Homeland Security on US security issues as a case in point. Some practices, she said, could serve to legitimise the virtue of the “war on terror” and could also be protecting the profits and commercial interests of the NFL. 

She explained that under the auspices of the Patriot Act, US corporations are allowed to present their own “anti-terrorist technology” to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). If such technology is approved, the corporation in effect becomes a DHS defence contractor.

The NHL now has DHS-approved anti-terrorist technology in all 32 of its stadiums, she pointed out. Among other things, this approval means that the NFL is immune from being sued should a terrorist act occur in any of its stadiums - even if it can be demonstrated that stadium security was lax. 

Across the world, security concerns are transforming the way in which mega events are organised. As an example, Schimmel cited research into the Pan American Games in 2007 in Brazil, which claimed that a “separate First-World city” had been constructed alongside the city of Rio, and only those with enough money were able to pass through its gates.  

Schimmel called for increased co-operation between sportspeople, journalists and politicians to encourage greater transparency. Security should be aimed at protecting people, not stadiums, she said.