Table of Contents
Recently, sports events have become a target of terroristic attacks. The more recent attack on Dortmund, Stade de France and other similar huge sporting events have magnified the seriousness of terror threat. This development in terror attacks has posed more challenges to the already challenged jobs of securing sports events calling for a more responsive and stringent security measures without being obtrusive to the sporting fans.
The attacks on sporting events and other western gathering is now more dangerous compared to previous decades. It has now become more dangerous because militants have now in fact, not only called for these attacks on sporting events but in fact published a manual on how to do it. In the 12th edition the al-Qaeda publication Inspire released in March 2014, the publication did not only call the attack on “US tennis open, the UK FA Cup, the English Premier Football League and the League Cup in France. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)” but also included a detailed instruction on how to do the attacks which even included the ideal time to stage it ((G4 Risk Consulting, 2016 pg. 2). As a concrete example that these terror publications provided the guidance and instruction on how to carry out terror attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 in fact got its guidance and instruction from the first edition of al-Qaeda’s publication inspire (G4 Risk Consulting, 2016). The more vicious terror group ISIS has also called on similar attacks on sporting attacks making it difficult to ignore the danger posed by these terror groups.
It is not only terror that now pose challenge to the security of sporting events. Traditional challenges such as crowd management and other emergencies still pose security risks albeit not as deadly as terrorist attacks where people would actually blow themselves up in the middle of a crowd to also kill innocent people. While the danger that crowd management failure still poses a danger, it is now dwarfed by the risk posed by terror attacks.
Types of terrorists: International and domestic terrorists
Generally, terrorism can be classified as international terrorism and domestic terrorism. International terrorism is defined by Title 18 which “involve violent acts that are dangerous to human life, in violation of criminal laws and that occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States” or outside the jurisdiction of the country subject to a violent attack (Tabman, 2013). Domestic terrorism on the other hand is defined “as the same acts, except that the acts occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Those acts may include planning, training, obtaining materiel and other activities directly or indirectly related to the terrorist act” (Tabman, 2013). Of the two, the latter is the more favored method of terror attack to sporting events where it is the local citizens who usually carry out the attacks.
Homeland security national strategies and principles
As a government agency, Homeland Security was created after the 9/11 attack under the administration of President George W. Bush. Its main strategy is to provide a comprehensive response to events of national significance including terror attacks. It is animated by the mission of “counter terrorism and enhance our security; secure and manage our borders; enforce and administer our immigration laws; protect cyber networks and critical infrastructure; and ensure resilience from disasters” (DHS, 2012).
Motivation of Terrorism
The scholarly consensus now holds that the roots of terrorism lie not in the individual, but in the wider circumstances in which terrorists live and act. Prior, the common thinking was that only those who has rooted “psychological abnormality or affliction” (Cotee, 2015) are susceptible to terror and hostile attacks but this notion was later debunked as the sole basis why people commit terror attacks. Rather than the rooted “psychological abnormality or affliction”, experts now holds that it is in fact the wider circumstances and environment that envelopes a person that makes him or her a terrorist. In short, modern consensus about the motivation of terror is socially determined, “a product of deeper historical, economic, or cultural forces over and above the individual” (Cotee, 2015). As the renowned expert on violence Albert Bandura would put it, it is not monstrous people that produces atrocious deeds but rather the environment that induces a person to commit such atrocious acts. These explains why regular people would carry out terroristic acts where they are driven by their “historical structures or social relationships” (Cottie, 2015) rather than by their “pathological” or sick minds. As an example, it is posited that the roots of jihadist terrorism does not actually came from the teachings Islam (albeit terrorists would claim a jihad or holy war to have their own Islamic state) but rather in the historical injustices (i.e. interventionist policies) committed by western and particularly, the United States against them. The United States reaction to 9/11 attack that included the invasion Iraq, and other interventionist acts and violent policies has fueled the anger of Muslims that made them susceptible to vengeance and fomented and galvanized the jihadists movement (Cottie, 2015. Ironically, the intention of the overzealous response of the US to 9/11 attack was to suppress, contain and stop terrorism but instead, it has fueled the motivation of terrorists to stage more attacks where recent attacks are becoming more vicious and more frequent than their former attacks. Worst, it has now included western jihadists or westerners carrying out terror attacks on their own soil (which includes many Americans) as they too felt alienated by the system and policies in the West that excludes, discriminate and harass Muslims. Recent reports suggested that what motivate local terrorists to carry out attacks in their own soil is the feeling of alienation and exclusion in a society that mock and discriminate their religion and identity as a Muslim. The role of international terrorists merely guides and provides them the know-how on how to carry out such attacks as the possibility of foreign terrorists coming to the west to carry out the attacks themselves is close to nil due to heightened security against foreign terrorists. The concrete example is the al-Qaeda publication Inspire which provided the call and instruction to bomb the 2013 Boston Marathon. Of course, there are instances where domestic terrorists could keep in touch with international terrorists especially with ISIS which has proven to be technologically savvy in using the internet to get recruits from the West.
Risks and vulnerabilities of major sporting events
The historical risk and vulnerabilities of major sporting events used to be confined to the danger posed by crowd congestion, environmental factors, Acts of God and violence wrought by alcohol consumption and unwanted contacts. These vulnerabilities were often a product of the sheer volume of fans attending the sporting event and calamities that are hard to predict. The violence that may occur were not intended to kill en-masse but usually are just a product of emotional crowd who have consumed alcohol (G4 Consulting, 2016). The advent of terrorism however, made crowd congestion an attractive target for terror attacks especially for “lone wolf” attackers due to the presence of many potential victims. The sheer number of attendees and the consideration of the organizers to allow fans to enjoy the event that makes them less obtrusive in their security measures made the sporting venue vulnerable. In addition, the lack of planning, competent personal and protective measures would render a sporting event and venue vulnerable in this age where terror attacks now include sporting events.
The challenge of balancing fan experience in sports events with optimal security measures has become more challenging today with the spate of terrorism where sport events has become a target of attack. Sport events planners and organizers are faced with dilemma on how to facilitate and optimize fan experience in a sporting spectacle without making its security measures too obtrusive that would defeat the purpose of the event. Sport events frequently attract large crowds where each event has its own peculiarities, different number of fan attendance and varying unanticipated results. Given these considerations, sport security planning options should be holistic and should deal not only anticipated traditional risks (i.e. natural disasters, terrorism, crowd control problems, and other large-scale threats) but should also include terror attacks and other unanticipated circumstances (i.e. earthquakes). Part of planning preparation is the continuous education and training of security of personnel as it is critical to the efficacy of security and therefore needs to be updated constantly to remain effective in dealing with evolving security threats (Hall et al., 2012). The continuous improvement cycle for effective sports security management is composed of SESA system which includes risk assessment, training, exercise and validation whose ultimate goal is to ensure the consistent security practices at sporting events (Hall et al., 2012).
Sporting events has become not only a place of entertainment and sporting spectacle but has evolved to become a target of terror attacks. Consequently, the security issues associated to sporting events also needs to evolve and needs to adapt to new risks. The vulnerabilities of sporting events are no longer confined to traditional security issues such as crowd control problems, natural disasters, and other large-scale threats but now includes terror attacks where sporting events have become a favorite target of lone wolf terror attackers. It is unfortunate that these recent threat in sporting events is deadly where the that usual threats of a sport event were dwarfed by the potential danger posed by terror attacks. It is learned that crowd congestion is in fact a favorite target of lone attackers and therefore, should be adequately prepared and considered in security planning and preparations. G4 Risk Consulting mentioned a technique on how security organizers can deal with the security challenge of lone wolf attackers by utilizing road closures using soft Hostile Vehicle Mitigation (HVM) tactics that involves deployment of “emergency vehicles to create a temporary physical barrier. This lessens the need for hard HVM, such as fixed bollards, concrete flower beds, and permanent barriers, which may not be appropriate” (G4 Risk Consulting, 2015 pg. 5)
It is also equally important to realize on what motivates terrorists to attack large crowds. The realization on what motivates terror attacks would help the correct profiling of would be attackers making the identification and security preparation easier. Scholarly consensus has determined that what motivates terrorists both foreign and domestic are social alienation, discrimination and exclusion and not religion. Thus, it would not only be incorrect, but could even aggravate terror activities when suspected attackers would be profiled on their mere appearance and religious background.
It would also help tremendously in security preparation if organizers and security personnel of sporting events will have an advance intelligence on possible attacks by coordinating with law enforcement agencies such as Department of Homeland Security and FBI if al-Qaeda publication Inspire or similar publications have called an attack on the sporting event so that adequate preparation will be made.
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Summary and Conclusions
In summary, it is learned that sport events have now become a target of terroristic attacks. And these attacks are called on by foreign terrorists through their publication (i.e. Inspire) or direct contact with domestic terrorists where domestic terrorists will act on the call of terror. Or, the terror act may be carried out by a “lone wolf” attacker whose favorite target are congested crowds in sporting events. Such, security preparations must be adequate and appropriate and should include terror attacks and not only limited to traditional threats of natural disasters, crowd control problems, and other large-scale threats. The addition of terror attacks to sporting events has made the security of venue more challenging as organizers and security personnel have to balance fan experience with optimal security measures not too obtrusive that would defeat the purpose of the event. And as threats are evolving, so should security measures where SESA system is to be used which includes risk assessment, training, exercise and validation whose ultimate goal is to ensure the consistent security practices at sporting events.
- Cottee, S. (2015, June 09). What Motivates Terrorists?
- Department of Homeland Security (2012). Department of Homeland Security Strategic Plan.
- G4 Consulting. Growing Terrorism Challenge for Sports Events. (2016, March).
- Hall, S., Cooper, W.E., Marciani, L., & McGee, J.A. (2012). Security Management for Sports and Special Events – An Interagency Approach. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics
- Tabman, M. (2013, April 18). International vs Domestic Terrorism ~ A Primer.