AFR to provide added security for Champions League final

28th April 2017
Joe Bush

The last few years has seen a noticeable increase in security fears in public places, amid the threat and impact of global terrorism. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the high profile, media spotlight of world sport and, in particular, football.

Only last month, the team bus of German Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund was attacked with a roadside bomb whilst en-route to its Champions League quarter final first leg against AS Monaco. While there were no casualties, several people were injured in the attack including Dortmund’s Spanish international defender, Marc Bartra (26), who suffered a broken wrist.

During the terror attacks in Paris in 2015, explosions near the Stade de France, which took place during a friendly international between France and Germany, killed three people and left several more injured. The game was abandoned as thousands of spectators were evacuated onto the pitch as the authorities declared a national state of emergency.

The following summer, during the European Championships, which also took place in France, 86 people were killed when a truck ploughed into a crowd of people in the southern French city of Nice during Bastille Day celebrations on 14th July. Nice was also one of the host cities for the Euro 2016 tournament.

With that in mind, the authorities in Cardiff, the host city for this season’s Champions League final, have announced that Facial Recognition Technology (AFR)  will be employed at the Principality Stadium and Cardiff’s central railway station for the showpiece occasion on 3rd June. The technology is then capable of matching 500,000 ‘custody images’ held by local police forces, and will alert police to any ‘persons of interest’.

The security operation will build on previous police use of AFR technology by Leicestershire police at the 2015 Download Festival and London’s Metropolitan Police during 2016's Nottinghill Carnival.

While approximately 70,000 fans are expected to attend the match, a further 100,000 are expected to be visiting the city on the day to watch the match in the city’s fan park.

South Wales Police have stated that the pilot is, “A unique opportunity to test and prove the concept of the technology.” The Champions League final will represent one of the largest security operations ever undertaken in the Welsh capital and technology will play a key role in the policing operation and in keeping people safe.

However, the project has not been met with universal approval and has been the target of criticism from Open Rights Group and Privacy International. According to Paul Bernal, a lecturer in IT law at the University of East Anglia, the use of such technology is something that we should be worried about and claimed that it is, “particularly intrusive’. He also questioned what would happen to the data that would be captured during the event.

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