Sport events face a plethora of risks that threaten the safety of fans, spectators, players and officials. The ever-increasing risk of terrorism to sport is a continual issue in the sports world and international governing bodies need to be preparing for this from day one of their events.

On Wednesday the 1st March 2017, AISTS along with Marsh, Kessler and XL Catlin organised a conference for 60 guests to discuss security at international sporting events. The evening was directed by Claude Stricker, AISTS Executive Director and commenced with the introduction of the organisers. Sylvain Zuber from Kessler who has 20 years of experience in the insurance industry, Michael Rüsch from XL Catlin who has extensive intercultural experience in the insurance sector and Patrick Vajda who has been closely involved in the organisation of the risk management for over ten Olympic Games and is one of the IOC consultants on risk management and insurance, as well as an advisor for several international federations and national sporting bodies.

We heard how security over the years has completely changed and that it now requires extensive preparation, procedures and standards to be in place prior, during and after events. The 9/11 attacks in the USA forced a change in how security was perceived and planned and made the sporting world realise that attacks were possible and insurance, liability and financial costs had to be dissected. Security at events became a matter of analysis, not just a question of how many police, security guards should be at an event, therefore becoming a matter of risk management.

The keynote speaker for the evening was Raymond Mey, an internationally recognised law enforcement and security professional with extensive experience in counter terrorism investigations, major events security, crisis management and hostage rescue. He gave examples of realistic and on sight experiences that he has had over his 23-year career and he spoke about his current position with the Qatar 2022 World Cup. Mr Mey provided the audience with a short history of security threats and attacks at various sporting events, including the Boston Marathon and the most recent Paris attacks, and other significant events and spoke about his first-hand experience at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. He concluded with a discussion about the systems, processes and best practices acts now in place in the USA on public safety and law enforcement and emphasised the need to train the public on the security measures at sports events and to use social media.

Every event will be different and there is not a one size fits all.

Raymond Mey, TSG

Gergely Markus, Sports Director from the International Triathlon Union, gave an overview of the security procedures put in place during the triathlon events, both male and female, during the recent Rio Olympic Games and highlighted the risks involved in such a sporting race where athletes enter and exit the ‘secured zone’. He also discussed the difficulty in trying to balance the different needs of the various stakeholders – the athletes, spectators, local authorities and the locations of the events, and the risks involved (eg. bringing the spectators closer to the action and the security needed from the local authorities to do this). 

Gergely Markus, ITU

The evening was concluded with a question and answer session between Michael Rüsch, XL Catlin, and Patrick Vajda, Marsh. Dr Francois Carrard, who specialises in sports law and was the Director General of the IOC from 1989 to 2003, finished the evening by reinforcing the message that security should be looked at from day 1 in the organisation of an event, no matter what size – big or small. He also strengthened Mr Rey’s point as well that public authorities and sports organisers need to work hand in hand and this is fundamental. 

Patrick Vajda, Marsh & Michael Rüsch, XL Catlin

Highlights of the event along with the speakers’ sessions are available on our YouTube.