Paris attacks give sports leagues worldwide a rude wake up call

On November 13th the world received a wake up call. The city of Paris was under attack as terrorists slaughtered 130 people in an array of attacks including the death of 89 people at an Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan theater. Further attacks took place outside of cafes and restaurants throughout the 10th and 11th arrondissement. At around 9:20 p.m. local time the attacks started. Three suicide bombers detonated outside of the Stade de France, an 80,000 plus capacity stadium that was holding a friendly between European powerhouses France and Germany. It was later reported that one suicide bomber had a ticket and tried to enter the stadium before being exposed by a security guard.

At first, the fans, players and security were unaware of what happened. France took a 1-0 lead into the break. The people around the stadium started to find out of what was going on. Fans started to frantically make their way to the exits but the security personnel wouldn’t let them leave. France ended up winning 2-0 but the result didn’t matter given the circumstances. After the match, fans feared for their lives and ended up running onto the pitch for safety. The scenes were horrifying and something we should never endure within sports.

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Fans run onto the pitch for safety.

The chaos wasn’t finished there. Only days later, a friendly match between Germany and Holland was called off because of the possibility of another attack. The events made not only soccer but sports in general re-think their current protocols and security measures. All week 10 games in the NFL had increased security presence as terrorists start to set their sights on stadiums worldwide.

A couple hundred miles away from the Paris attacks, officials in Switzerland started to re-think their own security protocols. I attempted to talk to Christian Inauen, head of security at Zurich’s Letzigrund stadium where he oversees the operations for both Zurich clubs. Unfortunately, Inauen couldn’t inform me on much at all stating: “This week the SFL (Swiss Football League) are having intense discussions with the security personnel from all ten clubs within the top flight. As a result, the clubs have ordered for the discussions to be private until a final resolution is agreed upon.”

With the 2016 European Championship only months away, fans are starting to have second thoughts of traveling to France to support their respective country. Security protocols are currently being improved upon by UEFA to make sure things run smoothly. Taking a further glance into the future, the 2018 World Cup in Russia is two and a half years away but the CEO of the Russian 2018 bid Alexey Sorokin tells fans that they are safe. At the most recent IFA conference at FIFA in Zürich Switzerland I had the opportunity to listen to what Sorokin had to say. He explained: “Attacks like this have been taken into account leading up to it. I’m certain that our security forces will ensure the necessary level of public safety. We will make sure we don’t spoil the celebration but people must feel safe.”

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Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium will hold the 2018 final

Sports are something that are integral to my life. I grew up as a passionate sports fan and have attended 50 plus events in over three different continents. While there have been several terrorist attacks before, sports has never been put into the spotlight like this before. It could begin a new era in sports where people would prefer to watch games in the quality and safety of their own homes, rather than venture out to a sporting venue and possibly risk their life. We can only hope that security forces at these events will stay on the ball and prevent any form of attacks from disrupting our experience.

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