World Cup security: Guard labor strike was a game changer

Security expert Ty Richmond says officials have risen to challenges in the last several days. But security guards walking off the job was an unforseen blow to World Cup planners.

Before the FIFA World Cup had even officially started earlier this month, a pregame event made headlines after the crowd in attendance stampeded the gates and became unruly because many were denied attendance due to the authenticity of their tickets.

As the tournament kicked off, CSOonline talked to Andrews International's Bill Besse about the kinds of advance work necessary to keep clients safe as they attend the games. (Read that interview here.) But only a few days into the tournament, the game changed when a dozen or more security guards walked off the job in a labor strike only hours before the Brazil-North Korea match.

With these and other incidents, the tone has been set: Security at the event will be in the spotlight over the next several weeks.

CSO checked in with Ty Richmond, chief operating officer of Andrews International, for more insight into the guard situation.

CSO: What were your thoughts when you heard about the pregame rush on the stadium that took place even before the tournament had begun?

Ty Richmond: There was an expectation that there would be some fine tuning of some of the issues relative to basic processes and systems. In an event of this magnitude on a global scale there is always the issue of insuring you have valid tickets that are not counterfeit and legitimate access control. Those are fundamentally part of security controls for everyone that needs to be in restricted areas.

In this particular case, there was an expectation that there would be some quality control over time. What I think was unexpected was on peripheral of event and on the outer layer that you would have labor issues that have come into play to the effect that they have.

That does not have 100 percent impact of what is happening in the stadium. Early on, there were some legitimate breakdowns that were just a matter of recognition of the problem and correction of it. People went into this with an understanding that there were some challenges you would not typically have in an advanced, progressive security culture which you don't have here. You just don't have that in South Africa. You have to work with a lot of elements you aren't used to dealing with in a much more westernized system of controls.

What are your thoughts on the security guard strike?

Andrews International has been providing security services to a top tier sponsor of the event. None of the company's personnel were involved in the strike - those participating were from vendors in the South Africa region. In any event of this magnitude, the human is the human element. You are going to have to deal with the fact that there is a level of coordination and communication that need to be worked throughout on the front end and very quickly in these types of events.

What you dont expect, and what typically doesnt happen, is you have entire labor forces leaving their post refusing to work and becoming aggressive from a strike/labor unrest standpoint over issues related to pay and conditions, etc, etc.

Also see Security Guard Contracts: Finding Your Inner Lawyer

That doesn't happen in most events, but definitely not in more western, progressive type events. You typically have terms and conditions well-defined, well-understood and you are very confident that you are going to be able to deliver and execute on the labor portion of that program.

How have these events impacted work with your client?

You constantly have to adjust and adapt. To some degree, adjusting and adapting is part of the program. But adjusting and adapting to the degree that we've gotten involved in some of the process and controls weve had to get involved with, some of that has been unexpected - without a doubt.

There is impact and degrees of concern. But you have to vet and mitigate those very quickly. The show does go on, if you will. You have to overcompensate, validate and confirm. In some instances you have to reinforce the process and the system and control with your own resources to the degree that you can.

How much do the inherent safety risks of having this event in South Africa play into your work with the client?

We've been working on the vetting and assessment process of different venues outside of the soccer matches for months. Itineraries and plans have been evolving for months relative to events outside of the sporting venue.

Companies that come to the World Cup come for the brand, the recognition of the sponsorship, as well as for the marketing and client relationship aspects of the event. There are many venues and activities outside the soccer match that require the same level of review, scrutiny and advance planning and control validation. Everything you would do inside the soccer match is done to some degree at other venues in all of the cities where you have play.

Do you think the way things have gone so far were as expected or better than expected?

There was no expectation that you would see labor unrest. That's like having a baseball team and learning you have to play the next inning without any of your outfielders.

There's no doubt there is a degree and level of improvement since the beginning. The country has stepped up. I think law enforcement had to step in and fill the gaps, but I'm confident in what I'm seeing in that everyone is doing what they can to make it a great global athletic event.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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