When the National Hockey League introduced airport-style scanners in their arenas I complained here. I thought such measures would make going to a game a hassle, and, like in airports, wondered if it was worth it.
This past weekend I went to a football (soccer) game in Rome, Lazio versus Benevento. The security measures there make what the NHL does seem insignificant.
It started with the ticket purchase. Photo ID was required, and my name, date of birth and birthplace were printed on the ticket. I’m not sure how that works with online sales.
I’m told there is a list of people banned from attending games because of their past behaviour. The ID requirements make it more difficult for them to get into the stadium (though I can think of ways). This makes for a safer environment for everyone.
Arriving at Stadio Olympico I presented my ticket and my driver’s licence at the first gate. The attendant cross referenced them and let me through, once a security guard had patted me down for weapons (or other banned items like water bottles).
I then had to repeat the experience before being allowed into the stands. Once again, my face was compared with my ID. Once again I was searched. I’m not quite sure why it is necessary to be screened twice, don’t they trust the first screeners?
Outside the stadium I had noted a heavy policy presence. That may have just been for traffic control, but there are different types of police in Italy. Not only were there city police on hand, but a contingent of Carabinieri, the military police, who seemed to be packing much more firepower.
I’ve heard that crowds at European soccer games can be somewhat rowdy, but I didn’t find that to be the case at this game. Enthusiastic yes, but I didn’t see any fights break out. Mind you, that could be because of the heavy police presence.
Fans of the different teams are kept segregated in the stands, though I don’t know how they can do that if it is individuals just buying a ticket. Maybe the regulars all know. I was cheering for underdog Benevento, but I kept that quiet given that I was sitting with Lazio fans.
In the most populated section of the stadium, the end seats where supposedly the true fans congregate, there was a police officer standing at the end of every second row. I guess their presence helps keep things civilized – if such an adjective can be used to describe a soccer crowd. There was also a heavy police presence in the section where the visitors’ fans were seated.
The segregation applies to more than just during the games. The Benevento supporters were required to stay in their seats when the game ended. Once the crowd had disbursed they were then escorted (I think) from the stadium.
I didn’t think that was the best of security arrangements myself. By delaying their departure, I can see that there might be some prevention of spontaneous fistfights breaking out between fans of opposing teams. However, I thought by delaying the visiting team’s fans from leaving when everyone else did, it just allowed those hooligans bent on mischief time to get set up for their assault.
One thing I did learn from the experience though is that the NHL security measures I complained about are positively minor league. Always nice to learn something new.