RIO DE JANEIRO: FIFA’s security chief has admitted yesterday’s Maracana media centre invasion was “embarrassing” and promised there would be no repetition writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

At no stage during a media briefing was any apology offered for the security failure by representatives of either the world federation or the local organising committee or the government.

A glass door was smashed, furnishings overturned and equipment looted on Wednesday night in Maracana by a mob of ticketless Chilean fans trying to access the stadium for their team’s game against Spain.

This was the second World Cup tie in Maracana and the second time security was unable to prevent troublemakers breaking into the stadium zone. Argentinian fans were arrested before their own team’s game against Bosnia.

Ralf Mutschke, FIFA’s German head of security, said: “It was embarrassing. We have to protect the journalists and the media. We also have to protect the fans.

“It could be explained that they came in through a little gate through the outer perimeter and ran into the inner perimeter and kicked in the door.

“We have had meetings yesterday evening and this morning to assess the situation and make sure this will not be repeated. I am confident that, with the measures discussed, we will avoid such situations again.

“FIFA and the local organising committee and the Brazilian authorities are trying to do everything to improve standards so that this will not happen again.”

Mutschke was supported at the briefing on stadium security Рor lack of it Рby Hilario Medeiros, the security manager for the Local Organising Committee, and  Andrey Passos Rodrigues, the secretary of security for major events.

Security in public spaces beyond the stadium zone perimeters is the responsibility of the public authorities; private security, hired by the LOC on FIFA’s behalf, is responsible for access controls to the outer and inner stadium zones.

Journalists were informed that a full 1,000-plus staffing was on duty at Maracana last night in contrast to ‘absentee’ problems which had arisen at other venues, notably Brasilia and Fortaleza.

Apart from Mutsche’s assertion about a “small gate” no-one could explain how the mob had broken through both perimeters without stadium security being alerted in time to take preventative measures.

This is presumably one of the operational issues being reviewed ahead of the next match at Maracana, on Sunday, between Belgium and Russia in Group H.

Gianni Merlo, president of the international sports journalists’ association AIPS, has expressed its “serious concern” at the incident and called for an assurance “that the focus of security staff within the FIFA Zone is directed at real security and safety issues for the sake of all working journalists and members of AIPS.”

AIPS president’s expression of concern to FIFA:

As president of AIPS I am writing out of serious concern after the incident yesterday at the Maracana Media Centre which needed the intervention of the Justice Ministry and the Federal Police.

While we accept and believe in the goodwill of the staff of FIFA and the Local Organising Committee it is clearly a matter of regret that ‘real’ security and safety for our colleagues is absent.

AIPS is aware of concerns raised previously by colleagues concerning thefts from lockers, inadequate catering exacerbated by the petty confiscation of minor items of food and drink and even of a coat hanger which, for the broadcast reporter concerned, counted as professional equipment.

Every troublesome incident prompts the likelihood of ‘copycat’ repeat. This is no exception.

We call on FIFA to ensure that the focus of security staff within the FIFA Zone is directed at real security and safety issues for the sake of all working journalists and members of AIPS.

Yours sincerely

GIANNI MERLO: President, AIPS

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