With less than 100 days to the kick off of the Euro 2016 hosted by France, more and more security questions arise. A lot of these questions are in regards to the terrorist attacks occurred in November. Some of the bombings had in fact besieged – among other targets – the holy ground of French football, the Stade de France.
With attendance able to reach just under half a million spectators in just one round of the Euro, safety is at the forefront of the conversation.
While the November attacks that had targeted the France-Germany game at the Stade de France were foiled thanks to some heroic steward’s actions, the threat was apparent. With the iconic French stadium offering a capacity of over 80,000 people, it is chilling to think the damage that could have been done if the attackers had succeeded.
With the tournament taking place in 10 major cities in France security is obviously a pressing matter both for the obvious target it represents and the large operation that will need to take place.
With the initial scare forcing the Stade de France to close down for four months, there was talk that’s this would continue throughout the tournament. In fact, Martin Kallen, the UEFA tournament director, had stated that whilst there would be no talk of cancelling the event there could be restrictions to play some of the games behind closed doors.
Of course the tournament decisions regarding security have to be discussed between two parties: the UEFA and the French Government, through the French Football Federation. The decision to go forward with the event means the French government would avoid losing out to such an important event and it would signify a show of strength against the fear spread by the terrorist forces acting in November.
However, moving forward with the event has caused some high-level criticism towards both the French Football Federation and UEFA itself. A most notable critique came from Just Fontaine, legendary French footballer holder of the record for most goals scored in a World Cup – 13 during the 1958 tournament. Fontaine calls for moving the event to another country as he believes France cannot ensure the security for such a large event at this delicate time.
Indeed, since the decision to edit the tournament layout and have 24 nations dispute the cup – rather than the original 16 side format – organisation has had to step up a level or two. This is one of many reasons why UEFA have asked the French government to step in and work alongside the tournament organisers to take any precaution necessary.
On the government’s side, the host cities have been given full decision-making powers and all have expressed their willingness to keep the fanzones as originally planned. In addition, the French Ministry of the Interior has accelerated the mandatory certification for private security firms to be involved in the tournament’s proceedings as the kick off date approaches.
The question of security does not simply cover the hundreds of thousands of fans that will attend but also the players from all 24 nations. To this problem, the French government has ensured that agents from both the GIGN, the special operations unit of the French Armed Forces, and the RAID, the elite tactical unit of the French National Police, will be present at all team retreats throughout the country.
To what price these security measures will cost the game, it is all to see on the 10th of June. Having attended the first sporting event at the Stade de France since the November attacks, I can say to expect much more thorough searches by the entrances. This will inevitably cause longer queues and slower movement around the grounds, which unfortunately made me miss the anthems at the France-Italy Six Nations game I attended.
Regardless though, it is paramount that the safety of the fans and the players take the highest priority throughout the tournament.